We compiled five artists who preceded Jaden Smith in the curious but nonetheless commendable pursuit of using random items as telephones.

Art

11.3.2016

5 Artists Who Used Random Items as Telephones Before Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith is one unique soul. The budding rapper and part-time model has never been afraid to speak his mind—nor, when it comes to fashion, has he ever been afraid to violate traditional gender boundaries. And now, it seems, we can also add holding up a box of water to his ear as if it’s a phone to that list.

As of late, the teen has been caught by the paparazzi on sundry occasions feigning cell service with a box of water. Apparently, this is all in an attempt to promote Just Water, the eco-friendly water bottle company that his family invests in. And while we hope he never stops, we do feel it’s our duty to let him know that he isn’t the first to do this—nor will he likely be the last. Below, we enumerate five artists who preceded Smith in this curious but nonetheless commendable pursuit of using random items as telephones.

1. Salvador Dalí’s “Lobster Telephone”

This trend goes as far back as 1936, when the renowned surrealist artist Salvador Dalí plopped a lobster on top of a rotary telephone and called it a day—or rather, a surrealist work of art titled “Lobster Telephone.” Apparently this was a gift from Dalí to the English poet Edward James. According to Dalí, “such objects could reveal the secret desires of the unconscious” and  “lobsters and telephones had strong sexual connotations.” We kind of doubt James had a lobster phone on his wish list, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Lobster Telephone 1936 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Purchased 1981 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03257

2. Jean Luc Cornec

And here we have another rather perplexing instance of phones used as… not phones. In 2006, French artist Jean Luc Cornec made a flock of life-sized sheep entirely out of telephones. In an act of creative genius, Cornec used old rotary phone cords to make the sheep’s bodies, used melted receivers as hooves, and used entire phone sets in lieu of their heads. The result is a group of sculptures so lifelike, they could almost pass as the real thing from far away. 

Trendhunter.com

3. Nadia Lee Cohen

London-based British photographer and filmmaker Nadia Lee Cohen creates vibrant, retro-themed settings for her photographs—think leggy models with big ’60s hair, brightly colored fast food signs, and tacky vintage hotel rooms. One of our favorite pieces is the telephone mask featured on Cohen’s Insta feed. Scantily clad in nothing but a fuzzy pink nightie duster thing-that-we-want, a blonde-wigged model sports a mask that’s reminiscent of the one worn by Hannibal Lecter, except with a rotary telephone cord attached to the chin. As one does. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.06.16 PM

4. Paul Fuentes

Honestly, who hasn’t, at some point in their lives, pretended that you could hear an ex-boyfriend’s voice by holding a banana up to your ear? Don’t answer that. Graphic designer Paul Fuentes could be credited with popularizing the banana phone, for which we will always be grateful. The Mexico City based artist can pretty much turn any household item into art, whether it be Oreos, a bottle of Sriracha, or a goddamn waffle. And while we aren’t sure how well the banana telephone will hold u in a conference call, we like it nonetheless. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.09.34 PM

5. Rosie Leventon

Using compressed mobile phones, artist Rosie Leventon crafted a single, vintage telephone that we’re assuming looks a lot better than it functions (but who uses landlines anymore, anyway?). The artist recycled cell phones into flattened sheets, and then stacked the colorful pieces into a towering mega-phone. Not only is it an incredible work of art, but Leventon also saved countless mobile devices from cluttering landfilled by making this sculpture. Art that does good is art we’re about.

Rosie Leventon.com

Images via PaulFuentesDesign.com, Instagram, Teen Vogue, DaliPaintings.net, TrendHunter.com, and RosieLeventon.com. Lead graphic by Bonnie Wang

Stay tuned to Milk for more tasteful telephonic art.

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