A table prepared with phone connections and handsets is transformed into a miniature Call Center. Participants can sit down, connect their phones, and make any calls to large corporations that they need (or don’t need) to make. Participants are encouraged to doodle during their call, using supplied pens and a large piece of paper which covers the table. If placed on hold, participants are also encouraged to broadcast their phone’s audio, by directing it to attached speakers and adjusting the volume using a simple controller at their point of connection.
The performance takes the customer service call, an interaction which is often scripted like a performance, with a narrative arc and even musical interludes, and stages it as an actual performance. It then invites people to participate in a non-threatening, passive activity within this familiar structure, giving them collaborative control over output (mix of audio, direction, style, final look of drawing, etc.). By elevating under-appreciated genres (doodles, muzak) to the status of Art, we hoped to address the problem of participants being “put on the spot” in participatory performance, and to gather (non-invasively) some participant-driven traces of participation – which is often fleeting and difficult to document.
The underlying intent was also to give some redeeming aspect to a common unpleasant experience (corporate phone calls), to turn “wasted” time into cultural production, and possibly to inflict a bit of revenge on the customer service system.
materials: paper, pens, phone handsets, table, PA system
NOTE: [The performance took place during the Drawn Together artist drawing benefit at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, CA. The drawing which resulted from the performance was our contribution to the event.]