Call Centre Toronto

Toronto art gallery takes a turn as a financial call centre

Walking into Whippersnapper Gallery, I was immediately disoriented by my surroundings. Instead of the typical white walls of an art space, I found myself standing in a call centre. After doing the mental double check to make sure I hadn't stumbled into a room where people were frantically trying to make their quota before the long weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting the artist and gallery co-ordinator, who filled me in on what's going on with this new exhibit.

Toronto-based artist, Angel Chen took the small gallery and morphed it into an office space for her project Candid Call Centre. Her work aims to disrupt the grand narratives that surround the so-called global financial crisis. Breaking with the pre-supposed notion that one's personal finances are a taboo subject matter, the call centre focuses the conversation on the experience of the everyman (or, really everyperson) rather than on economic policy and governance.

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Chen has set up a toll-free line where people from all anywhere in Canada can call free to talk about their finances with strangers. Those passing by Whippersnapper Gallery are also welcome to stop in and answer the ringing phones. If the phones aren't ringing at that particular time, Chen has compiled a list of numbers found on websites like Kijiji and Craigslist, such as ads for poker tournaments and finance workshops, that patrons can ring.

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The people on either end of the line aren't experts in the area and cannot offer financial advice, but are rather just there to discuss thoughts on the subject freely, in an anonymous and open environment. "Each person has had their own experiences with the economy," she tells me.

There's an element of farce to all this, sure — but that only encourages a new way of looking at what is a dominant subject in most of our lives (as well as the news cycle). By putting the topic out in the open and treating it with a certain degree of lightheartedness, the idea is to foster a free exchange of ideas that aren't saddled with the ideological baggage that typically accompanies talk of the financial crisis.

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The four week project runs until the end of April. Each Wednesday, there will be lunch hour call-ins from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., with possible special guests appearing weekly. For those with questions, the gallery is running information sessions each Sunday for those who wish to learn more about the project or to talk to the artist.

The phone lines are open, would you like to make a call?


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