While it might be considered poor etiquette to chat away on a cell phone
at an art exhibition, such behavior was encouraged at the Meat Market Art
Fair held last November in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. Blame it on
artist Ben Rubin and Creative Time, the public art organization that sponsored
Rubin's "telephone event, “titled 917: A Code Without an Area, a reference
to the prefix of many a New York City mobile phone number. Cards
were distributed at the fair bearing a telephone number for a party line.
Two enthusiastic participants dominated the air waves, discussing such
highbrow topics as favorite pancake toppings and 1960s pop music.
Rubin had asked actors David Pence, phoning from Maine, and Coco McPhereson,
from a nearby loft, to lubricate the conversation and encourage gossipy
talk. Disappointed, however, with the early returns as he listened in from
his studio, Rubin decided to change strategy and attend himself. He immediately
gathered up a group of cell-phone-carrying visitors and asked them to dial
in. Then he took them on a tour of the meatpacking district to stimulate
conversation that would veer away from the art fair itself.
“Curators, critics, and collectors want to schmooze. They don't want
to isolate themselves by getting on the phone," says Rubin, theorizing
about why his piece took an unplanned detour. "In a way, my piece revealed
that an art fair is primarily a social event. People held socializing as
a higher priority than an odd performance niece."
A caller to Ben Rubin's cell-phone party line.
Reprinted from Art News, March 2001
photo: Creative Time.
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