"Art Exhibit's # Was Up" by Aldo Santin in the Winnipeg
reporting on the exhibition "Laughing" at Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
The threat of a lawsuit prompted unconventional artist Les Newman to remove his work from the Plug In gallery yesterday.
Newman’s art contained little that a casual observer could find offensive. There was no nudity, profanity or bestiality. No oozing bodily fluids,
Just telephone numbers. One-hundred-and-twenty-one telephone numbers and a working telephone.
Newman, who spent the past year employed as a telemarketer, had titled his work: All The Phone Numbers of Rude A________ Who tried to Make Me Feel Like S____ While I Tried To Make A Living As A Telephone Market Researcher During The Month of Oct 1198.
“These just weren’t people who said ‘no’, Newman said. “These were people who went out of their way to be very spiteful,” adding the numbers were from Ontario to British Columbia.
The piece consisted of 11 pages posted on a wall with 12 phone numbers on each. Beside them was a working telephone.
Newman said MTS disconnected the phone without notice last week.
The letter from his former employer’s lawyer, whom he refused to identify, cited the confidentiality breach as grounds for demanding the piece be taken down.
“I suspected this would happen.”
Newman said his exhibit was popular and most gallery patrons just took it upon themselves to pick up the phone and dial some of the numbers.
“Some people just called to say ‘hi’ and that they’d found the number on the piece,” Newman said. “Others were some of my former telemarketing co-workers who were exacting their revenge…. And taking a bit more.”
Newman, 26, is originally from Sarnia, Ont. But has spent the last two years in Winnipeg.
Newman said the piece has been replaced by a taped outline on the wall and media clippings about its reviews and the controversy.
Newman said he was fired from his telemarketing job on Feb. 12, the day his exhibit debuted, for breaching the confidentiality conditions of his job.