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Texting, Traditions, and the Gentleman's Rule

When they traveled to New York City with other art majors over spring break, seniors Nick Roudebush and Mark Turpin were taken by an interactive display of text messaging.

The duo created their own public art event as a part of an interdisciplinary Creative Process class, and got the Wabash community involved last Sunday night.

They called their exhibition "The Chapel Talks" and asked Wabash students to text them their thoughts on traditions at Wabash and the Gentleman’s Rule. (See pictures below)

"The project was designed to get students to think about the collaborative creative process," said Roudebush. "Mark and I were encouraged to think outside of our comfort zones, clay and painting respectively. So, we decided to also collaborate with technology and the community by staging an interactive text message forum/public art piece about Wabash traditions, specifically the Gentleman's Rule."

Over spring break, the guys were introduced to the genre of interactive video projection at the Chelsea Museum.

"This experience led us to look at other contemporary artists doing similar work, such as Jenny Holzer and Krzysztof Wodiczko," Roudebush said. "When thinking about what we were going to do for this collaboration we thought, ‘Why don't we try this at Wabash?’"

About 70 text messages were sent to a dedicated number, and Turpin and Roudebush then projected the messages on the front of the Pioneer Chapel, which serves as the foundation of so many Wabash traditions — from Ringing In to Chapel Sing to Baccalaureate.

Some messages were serious in tone and some were critical of the College and the administration. Other texts included lines from movies and Sap Wilson’s famous words, "Did Wabash Win?"

"For starters, this work exposes text messaging as a contemporary communications phenomenon that seemed to us to have some inherent problems," added Roudebush. "Everywhere you look, you find someone buried in his/her cell phone involved in a private yet impersonal conversation, but what if this technology were put to a good use? What if people could address public issues by text messaging?

"This work aligns new technology alongside age-old questions concerning the liberal arts. The Gentleman's Rule has been a popular topic in recent discourse, so we thought that would be a good place to initiate discussion."

"I thought the piece was a very interesting use of public space, new media art, and discourse about the college," said Professor Kristen Wilkins, who taught the class.