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Dhanraj Emanuel

first performed on August 7, 2013
San Diego International Airport, San Diego, CA
performed four times in 2013


Greensboro, NC


Travel and the surprises that accompany it provide inspiration for “Travel Desk,” a project created as part of a public art commission at the San Diego International Airport. Travel humbles you, trips you up as you try to climb unfamiliar steps in places where you don’t speak the language and can’t even begin to understand what makes people laugh or cry. It opens your eyes to the everyday, shakes you hard and insists that you pay attention to the smallest of details. It requires curiosity, patience and perseverance, an inner will to make the journey. The journey itself always reveals something about the traveler and the world in which we live, something that could not have been found at home. This, in turn, makes its way into my work.

For “Travel Desk,” I created a public typing pool at which typists, dressed to the nines in retro styled bright blue flight attendant uniforms, asked people to share a travel story. The “Travel Desk” typists were active and engaged listeners whose kind demeanors encouraged strangers to sit right down and tell a story. Each key stroke reassured them that the typist really was listening: She was in fact taking down every word.

A series of four performances were staged as part of the public grand opening of ten new gates at the airport. The crew of ten typists represented one typist for each of the ten new gates added as part of this airport expansion project.

The stories collected during the performances become the material that will inform the creation of a permanent artwork that is scheduled to be installed in the airport in 2014.