Unknown Number

2021, 2-channel audio, duration 22′ 35″

An unknown number has called me, sometimes twice a day, on and off for about the past three years. I never answer and no message is ever left. Searching this number online reveals conflicting reports from various sources. It is the gas company wanting to install a smart meter. Scammers pretending to be the gas company. Automated sales pitches in unknown languages. Rogue injury claim lawyers. Even a mysterious man who says ‘I’d like to speak to…’ then hangs up.

This episodic audio work dives into the opaque structures lying behind the endless calls. My own early experience working as a cold-caller in the late 1990s serves as a point of contrast to trace the overheated, wildly unequal progressions of the early 21st century. Last century’s visions of leisure and abundance, courtesy of the machines, remain far out of reach for most; while the machines themselves may (already have) become our masters. Given the technological potential, how has the dream unraveled? Why is there such a persistence of ‘bullshit jobs’, the very labour we were supposed to be liberated from?

Unknown Number is set in a call centre without boundaries. It is an inexhaustible system, inhuman yet made by/of humans, repeating itself to infinity but always on the edge of collapse under its own absurdities.

Voices:
Victor Bock, Raya Carbone, Rick Carbone, Thom Driver, Les Gibson, Gregory Hari, Peter Harris, Aylin Leclaire, Glenn Ryszko, Claire Sellwood and the synthetic entities Olivia, Lisa, Lenny, Sarah, Kathy and Fred.


(Excerpt 2′ 35″)

Installation views from Freed From Desire, RENENEE, Amsterdam, March 2021 (photos: Nikola Lamburov)