Mixed media installation/telephone service, 2005
Professional call centre agent, direct dial telephone connection, two telephones, chair, lamp, table, framed photo of call centre agent.
The Representative is a ‘portrait’ of a call centre worker that can be accessed by telephone.
Call centres are an increasingly ubiquitous and technocratic interface between large organisations and the public, and their spread has been described as endemic to a globalised world. With The Representative, visitors are invited to sit within an installation of domestic lounge-type furniture and use a single phone to connect direct to a call centre agent working at a remote location. The callers are offered the chance to ‘get to know’ the agent, and thus to experience a ‘portrait’ of the call centre agent accessible via a call centre interface. Young hired the agent and defined a ‘vignette' of them by agreeing a generic script of topics for possible conversation to be offered to callers at the start of each call, based on interviews with the agent about their personal background and experiences of call centre work. Following these initial options, calls were unscripted and based onthe conversational interests of the caller.
The Representative is a development of Nothing Ventured, an earlier work by Carey Young, in which the artist hired a call centre to ‘represent’ her. The Representative, at its simplest level, offers a view of the life and experiences of a call centre operative whose individuality and identity would normally be denied to the caller. The calls would exist somewhere between a personal chat, an interview, the reality-TV style exposure of a ‘civilian’, a script, an exposé of working conditions, a piece of journalistic research, a portrait and a service, with the caller put in the position of researcher, audience, voyeur, client and potential friend.