The Typical Reject


The Typical Reject
by MarkBrogan

 

 

you can whatch the second part of the series here


Just over 3 years ago, I moved to Belgrade from London with my partner who is Serbian.  Unable to find work, I decided to set up a small telephone market research call center in Belgrade, manned by English-speaking Serbs.  The call centre’s clientele would be Global Information Technology companies which would outsource IT related market research to this call centre.  This was a very specific form of market research which involved the acquisition of sensitive and competitive internal information about large European companies.  Early in this project, I became uncomfortable with the ‘penetrative’ and ‘aggressive’ information requirements of the Western IT companies.  A moral conflict arose in which on the one hand I was creating employment for young Serbs and on the other hand, this was unethical work which was feeding off the poor domestic economic circumstances of countries such as Serbia.   At this point, I began to orient my art practice towards staging the alienating situations which problematized working in this particular call centre environment.  I needed to present an image of the artist which is by force of circumstance instrumentalised in a Sadean way by a corporate superego.   My films documented actors and existing call centre workers simulating negative call centre experiences.  One such experience is a call centre worker serially rejected by the respondents in the companies he is telephoning.  Another is a call centre worker intimidating and bullying a respondent from a western European company.


My next step was to screen these films in live job interview situations at the call centre, not disclosing to their ‘audience’, young Serbs applying for the position of a telephone researcher, the true reconstructive nature of these films.   The job candidates were told  these were ‘training films’ made from actual footage.  The purpose this idea of showing these ‘training films’ was to anticipate the alienating effects of the call centre by alienating job applicants in advance, to alienate them from any passive acceptance of the position they were applying for and to turn them into ‘consciously critical observers’ of the call centre industry.  To render their experience of the distancing effects of the context in a more tangible and brutal way, the job applicants had to simulate as part of the job interview a ‘cold telephone call’ and a rejection.  This call was conducted with the job interviewer who left the interview room and acted as an IT manager from a Western company.  The script of this simulation was copied from the training film(s) they had just watched and familiarized themselves with some minutes before.  The disorientation and the subjectivisation of the job applicants were also developed by asking them to audition from interview scripts whilst being filmed.  Ultimately they were asked the question ‘So how do you feel about working in this job?’.  

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