March 29 – April 28, 2012
Opening Reception – April 5th, 7:00 – 9:00
Artist Talk: April 17, 7-9pm
Artist Discussion: “We have some questions about Social Practice”
Angel Chen, Department of Public Memory, The Torontonians, Sarah Febbraro
XPACE Cultural Centre – 58 Ossington Ave
In Candid Call Centre, Angel Chen transforms Whippersnapper Gallery into a functioning call centre. But Chen is not selling insurance or gathering market research. The CCC phones-lines are dedicated to conversation between regular people about the financial crisis. Open to the public between Thursday and Sunday 1:00 – 7:00pm, the CCC will invite passers-by and other participants into the gallery to take part in working the phone lines – fielding and making calls while Chen manages the office, arranging guest operators, brewing coffee and soliciting new volunteers.
In CCC, Chen utilizes the model of a call centre and the media of the telephone to try to initiate unassuming and honest conversation between unlikely pairs. Incoming calls will be solicited by the CCC through ads placed on public classified websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji. Calls will be directed through a switchboard and distributed to three phones within the gallery. As the CCC begins operations in Whippersnapper Gallery, the space itself -not just the phone lines – will become activated as participants are welcomed in off the street to work the phones. In-gallery participants will have the opportunity to field calls and can choose to place out-going phone calls if experiencing a brief lull in operations.
Imbued in much of Chen’s work is a desire to engage and include – to design a framework and invite its use. In another of Chen’s very successfully projects Post A Letter Social Activity Club (Pal-Sac), Chen facilitates an international network of letter writing collectives that gather regularly to create hand written letters together. In CCC Chen again employs what might be considered a less contemporary technology in order to glean from it a lost insight into our own personages and relationships. The project asserts that by leaving one another with only each others’ voice – with no previous relationship, potentially no future relationship and few connotations of each person’s motives – the conversation itself might change towards a greater capacity to embark on an honest and candid exchange of ideas.
This capacity for a more intimate exchange exacts effect on a multitude of levels, but perhaps most poignantly when in conversations of public discourse. Over the past years discussions about the “economic crisis” have been dominated by a focus on the economy, disparity, austerity and the role of governance. News reports, opinion polls and political hyperbole crowd out the uninitiated and perhaps naive words from the conversation and hence, the speaker from the arena. Often these are conversations in which everyone has a vested interest but they are dominated by sloganeering from the entrenched positions of a few. These dominant narratives become locked into ideological place-holders and seldom unpacked for the inclusion of those they affect. Chen proposes that the potential to speak candidly and with unlikely partners might cast into relief the disconnect between these global narratives and the experiences of regular people.
Chen’s call centre seeks to dismantle our readiness to refer to stand-by positions and in doing so suggests that our ability to confront the collective obstacles we face could be impacted by our capacity for exchange. As it stands, the use of specialized and often narrow vocabularies employed to discuss matters of public importance too closely coincides with the power relationships at the heart of the issues. CCC seeks to catch individuals in an unarmed moment where the breadth of our conversations can expand and potentially begin to reconcile the experiences of the individual to the public discourses that play such a potent, yet ambiguous role in our lives.