The Sociology of Close Contact Technology:
Taking Back Your Public Space

11 Dec 2004
December 11, 2004
The Society for Handheld Hushing

Download these handy dandy cards,
perfect for any overbearing cell phone interaction

I am a voyeur. To be a good artist you must be willing to observe and listen. It’s not hard when you take public transportation every day. As an art career move, my transportation from the isolation of LA freeway driving to the close contact of DC’s subway has been a boon to my artmaking. Hence the creation of The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable.

As an artist I am stealth. When I hear fellow commuters’ private yet very public cell phone conversations, I surreptitiously reach for my Moleskin notebook to take notes. My interaction comes only when I actually perform my monodialogs on the train.

However, if you are bothered/overwhelmed/disgusted by loud cell conversations in your adjacent vicinity and want to proactively do something about it, right then and there, Heidi Coudal, Jim Coudal, and Aaron Draplin have teamed together to provide you the way. Join SHHH, The Society for Handheld Hushing. Download this convenient PDF file of handy cards, perfect for handing over to any overbearing mobile phone user.

The project is reminiscent of conceptual artist’s Adrian Piper’s 1980s impromptu performance pieces in bars and other public venues. Using one of her Calling Cards Piper, a light-skinned African-American, would hand them to people who had just made a racist remark. Another was handed out to men in bars who assumed she was “available” simply because she was alone.

So when the opportunity arises, let your fellow travelers know they’ve breached the limits of proper 21st century etiquette. Don’t just roll your eyes while attempting to read your newspaper in angry silence. Take back your public space.

3 replies
  1. Donna says:

    This is great.

  2. Ray Williams says:

    Thanks for pointing me to that. I immediately printed them out and intend on using them when I go Christmas shopping. I’ll inevitably end up over-hearing someone’s ‘oh-so-important’ phone conversation while waiting in line. Giving them the card will be my gift to everyone around. “Merry Christmas, but SHUT UP!!!” :) Don’t you just love the holidays? :)

  3. textually.org says:

    “The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable”

    These are recreated cellphone conversations overheard on the Washington, DC subways. Jeff Gates actually performs these pieces, which he calls “monodialogues”.

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