“Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old.” At least according to Miranda July, the artist and filmmaker behind a new mobile application called Somebody. When you send a message through Somebody, it doesn’t go directly to the recipient but, instead, to someone in their vicinity.
This person, who’s more than likely a stranger, delivers the message to the intended recipient verbally, and if you’ve added extra instructions to the message, the message deliverer will hopefully include those, too. There’s no doubt that Somebody is not an app for the faint of heart. “I see this as far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and conversation about the value of inefficiency and risk,” July says.
The app launched at the Venice Film Festival last week and, obviously, works best with a large number of users in a particular area. July suggests universities, workplaces, parties and concerts and says any venue can become a Somebody hotspot simply by designating itself as one using the app.
Official Somebody hotspots so far include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for The Arts, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Mexico City’s Museo Jumex.
The app was created by designer Thea Lorentzen and a team of developers at Stinkdigital. July says Somebody is the “antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises” and says the app makes people more alert to the people around them.
Users can add actions and other directions for the message deliverer and the default first sentence of a message reminds the deliverer to identify the sender. The recipient always has the option of declining a delivery before it’s set in motion should it not be a convenient time to receive a message.
In instances where there is no one nearby to deliver a message, users can opt to “float” their message indefinitely. Users interested in delivering messages can browse nearby floating messages and pick one to deliver.
July first came to prominence with her second film, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” in 2005. Back in 2000, July created a participatory website called “Learning to Love You More” with artist Harrell Fletcher. Last year, more than 100 000 people subscribed to her email-based artwork “We Think Alone” that asked various prominent figures to share an email a week related to a specific theme.
Somebody is available for iOS.
July was commissioned by Miu Miu Womens’ Tales to make an accompanying short film for the release of Somebody. Watch it below:[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz13HMsvb6o”]