THE CALL CENTER
The closest that most of us come to a direct experience of the centerlessness of capitalism is an encounter with the call center. As a consumer in late capitalism, you increasingly exist in two, distinct realities: the one in which the service are provided without hitch, and another reality entirely, the crazed Kafkaesque labyrinth of call centers, a world without memory, where cause and effect connect together in mysterious, unfathomable ways.
(Capitalist Realism - Mark Fisher)
The idea is simple: Davide Cortese, a young Sicilian poet, sits down at the table and displays the blank pages. Without thinking too much, he chooses a random number, and calls. When he intercepts a human presence on the other side of the thread, he begins to recite one of his poems, from the booklet he keeps next to the telephone. A poetic, unexpected, and unpredictable Russian roulette, devoid of mediations, presentations, preliminaries, filters, and courtesy formulas.
Every new phone call, a poem: contemporary, visceral, dry, hard, between the teeth. The reactions of strangers are equally surprising and unexpected: silence, bewilderment, and, as some have had the courage to confess, pure terror. In most cases, as soon as David starts reciting his poems, people react by dumbing down. I imagine eyes wide open and furrowed faces, in some corner of the city, in front of something obviously unimaginable and incomprehensible: a stranger who calls you to recite a poem. Only at the end of the poem, when Davide solicits a reaction from her/his casual interlocutor, he realizes that there is almost always no one listening.
But sometimes the person on the phone reacts to the provocation, plays the game, gets dragged into Davide’s poetic world. And that’s when the performance device explodes and the magic begins. We finally rediscover the beauty of our human frailty, empathy, and madness, talking to a stranger on the phone.
The alienating experience of the call centers, where Davide worked for a period of his life, turns into a surreal action that completely overturns the meaning of commercial phone calls, establishing an unexpected poetic relationship with the unknown on the other side of the thread lacking in utilitarian purposes.
MACRO Museum, Rome - 2019
Concept and art direction - Francesca Fini
Performing - Francesca Fini, Davide Cortese
Photo documentation - Giorgio Sacher
Radio interview (Italian) Tuttascena Podcast - open link
Website of the project