“I Just Called” ( Version 1.0, 2017)
This piece plays with the dynamic between intimacy and voyeurism. We hear people saying heartfelt and private things to ones they love. We listen, but are we observing or intruding? Where does the artwork live? I argue that it exists mostly in the feelings experienced. It is not merely the telephone hand-sets or the sound files, rather it is the emotion engendered as we react to the words and how they are said. It is our relationship to the work. Our emotions happen with immediacy, and we have very little conscious control over them. Where is the critical distance here? How can we listen without considering the back-story to each snippet? Does each flow from joy or tragedy? What of the obviously synthetic voices deprived of the nuances of human agency? – The words are there all the same.
The material aspects of the work exist as an assemblage in and of itself but it only becomes its particular art kind when a listener is engaged as the assemblage layer defining it as art. The reproduction apparatus is a mere carrier for the word-signs and tone-signs in each segment, with all the implied referential framing. This is incomplete, unfinished as art, until you put a handset to your ear and become a co-creator, a spect-actor of a sort.
Are we convinced of the authenticity of what’s said? Each participant in the recording process was made aware of the nature of the work. Is there real disclosure or mere playing to the microphone? And in respect of the segments that are not in a language that we speak; we rely on non verbal cues to extract some meaning but how much room is there for misunderstanding?
*Update* Version 2.0 – ONLINE , July 2020
This project started as a physical installation, with the content relayed via eight telephone handsets suspended from a backlit upholstered ceiling panel. Covid-19 has made us all reassess how we deliver content in the changed environment. The handsets are fomites – potential vectors for transmission of pathogenic organisms, particularly as they involve hand contact and are then brought into close proximity to the face.
How then, to preserve the sense of intimacy involved in the project without placing those enjoying the piece at unnecessary risk? My solution is to move the entire project on-line as a browser-based interface that is optimised for smartphones. Now the content can be accessed wherever a data connection is available. Now I Just Called is only a click away…. ijustcalled.online