Please Listen Carefully. 323 Projects’ Menu Options Have Changed. Glasstire Magazine, September 11th, 2014.

by Keith Plocek


His voice is calm. He speaks in overlapping messages.

“Hello, you have reached 323 Projects. Please listen carefully as our menu has changed.”

“A customer service representative will be with you shortly.”

“If you wish to place an order for the first time, press 1.”

“Please stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly.”

“If this is a life-threatening emergency, please hang up and call 911.”

“Please stay on the line.”

Tucker Neel’s 323 Projects (http://323projects.com/) is nothing more than a phone number, and for its latest show Mar Vista artist Alex Schub has created recordings that are almost as exasperating as the customer service options that inspired them.

The first time I dialed for “Please Listen Carefully As Our Menu Options Have Changed,” all I heard was quiet synthetic melodies, a very abstract version of hold music. The exhibition materials promised an exploitation of “the familiar call waiting structure, turning the frustration of labyrinthine customer service into something strange and entertaining,” but this song (songs?) took that to the extreme. I suspected flimflammery. After all, you could load any noise onto voicemail and then say you’re exploiting the frustration of calling customer service. Why not go for extra credit and say you’re protesting NSA surveillance while you’re at it?

But when I called back the next day, I heard the overlapping sentences offering up woefully familiar menu options, not to mention the possibility of getting in touch with services such as Eulogies Plus, the Lame Excuse Hotline, and Nico’s Theremin and Kabob Palace. Pressing additional numbers never got me an operator, and no matter what I did, the only progress seemed to be skipping from one message to the next.

You really should dial 323-843-4652 and listen for yourself.

Schub’s bizarre messages are often backed by soothing soundtracks, and the whole experience leaves you feeling lost in a maze without walls. Are those weird glitches in sound quality intentional? At the end when there’s just silence, are you supposed to leave a message? And when exactly did you get hung up on?

On a mobile phone, there’s no dial tone to let you know you should be offended.

There are some moments of humor in “Please Listen Carefully As Our Menu Options Have Changed,” for example when a ballet school accidentally plays death metal, or when Nico chuckles at the notion that neither theremins nor kabobs are actually Greek, but other jokes fall flat, and the Lame Excuse Hotline feels like a wasted opportunity altogether.

Nevertheless, with this project Schub succeeds in mocking the faceless customer-service tyranny we’ve all experienced far too many times, and he doesn’t even offer the solace of an actual human at the end of the journey. There is no exit. Hell is other people’s recorded voices.

“Please Listen Carefully As Our Menu Options Have Changed” is playing at 323 Projects through September 19.

Keith Plocek (https://twitter.com/kplo) is a writer in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in LA Weekly, Vice, ArtNews and The Village Voice.


Tucker Neel