Carey Young's Call Centers & Telephone Art

So this was the other show I checked out at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Carey Young's Speech Acts. Young is a UK conceptual/installation artist who does work on business and globalization, among other things. The Representative was a small, furnished sitting area with a red phone and two snapshots, one of a man, one of a woman. They were actual can center employees (American), to whom a red phone connected you directly. They had a loose script to follow, you were also encouraged to ask them about their personal lives.

Another conference room has several phones on a large round table. Two had prerecorded pieces: Follow the Protest was a phone tree of options for listening to different sounds recorded at the G20 Summit protests in London; another was a monologue musing about telephonic presence and ether-eal immateriality. (I found it somewhat sophomoric, but it's something within my area of research specialization, so that might be why.) The agent on the other end of Monster Flat Out talked to you about what previous people thought the artwork was about (mood alteration, big business) and encouraged you to pick a new theme or meaning.

I chose "anxiety" because I hate talking on the phone! Seriously, I liked Young's work a lot but it was really hard for me to interact with. Unstructured phone conversations send my blood pressure through the roof.

I was surprised the show was so local -- global outsourcing of call centers seemed relatively absent. Overall, though it was intriguing and nice to see cool installation /performance work at a major venue.

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