Social Calls

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."
 -Reena Jana

A caller to Ben Rubin's cell-phone party line.

Reprinted from Art News, March 2001
 photo: Creative Time.

Back to PhoneyVents