Brandon Locher – Conversations, 2012

Sound artist Brandon Locher’s telephone experiment Conversations, 2012 is an imaginative concept that illustrates isolation and misunderstanding in the current mired state of a technological post-industrial America, reminiscent of the earlier pranks of Negativland.  The sound piece clocks in at just under 20 minutes and consists of a serial chain of phone calls. The first without a response on the other side is recorded.  The confused answerer repeating, “Hello?  Hello?” is then used to playback in a new call to another randomized receiver.  That person’s response is then taped and played back for another confused recipient.  Locher summarizes the process, “as I move through the same process for each conversation, more information develops, and the concrete themes and ideas start to form more complex exchanges between the people and the recording.”

What is most interesting is that the chain seems to begin specifically with businesses in the same shopping center in Johnstown, PA.  This means that every phone is answered with a long-winded corporate greeting, usually including a plug to a sale or new product.  Hearing both ends trying to get through their rehearsed greeting, then become bewildered that both members of the conversation are waiting to address the other caller’s concerns, gives an illuminating commentary on roles in communication and our schematic designs of them.  Few of Locher’s victims attribute the confusion to a telephone glitch and are rather insistent that they are not at fault.  The takeaway from this point is a bit obvious but resonates with the listener nonetheless: Locher’s process doesn’t create misunderstanding; it’s always there.  Locher simply illumined this despairing truth.

-April Davis

Artist: Brandon Locher

Project: Conversations, 2012

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