Our GIF of Wilson’s project.

Outsourcing, outsourcing, outsourcing! It has become an obsession with pundits and commentators as one of the many ills that plague America. The notion that a faceless figure overseas is answering your customer service calls, writing your corporate reports or programming your software is rampant in the American imagination and artist Andrew Norman Wilson is exploring this dark corner of our global consciousness with his “The Virtual Assistance” project.

Join us at 7:30 pm EST next Wednesday, August 17 at Hyperallergic HQ where he will discuss his curious art project that involves his hiring of a remote assistant in Bangalore, India.

“In paying for our relationship I am not trying to lighten my work load, but rather to attempt collaborative projects and even reversals of the normative outsourcing flow under a corporate contract arranged for one-way command,” he says.

An image from his “Toy Boat Task” (image courtesy the artist)

His remote artist “collaborator” was a 25-year-old male Bangalore resident named Akhil. “Using the service has been a method of engaging with, understanding, and reacting to an economy in order to learn, with the help of Akhil, how to peel back the corporate veneer, revealing limitations, histories, networks, power and desire by making toy boats, construction manuals, a video about the best fighter jet in the world, PowerPoint performances, pulse rate tests, Excel graphs, office installations, g-chats, international mailings and more,” he says.

He will illustrate his talk with the “Virtual Assistance PowerPoint,” which, he explains, provides an overview of many of the project components that Akhil and I have worked on together. The performance is an exercise against the limited expressive potentials of both the presentation of project documentation and PowerPoint as an artistic medium.”

The Virtual Assistance PowerPoint has been performed in conjunction with both the Philadelphia Office exhibition (extra extra) and the Chicago Office exhibition (Sullivan Galleries) of the project, as well as at threewalls gallery in Chicago, the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki, the Banff New Media Center, Yaffo 23 in Jerusalem, the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.

For an in depth discussion of the project, read “Virtual Assistance: An Interview with Andrew Norman Wilson” in Media Fields Journal. Also, on the Get Friday Blog – Pushing the Frontiers of Exploration by Get Friday CEO Sunder P and Norm’s follow-up post on the project.

Veken Gueyikian is publisher of Hyperallergic.