Tim Brown The Listening Post
“As with everything, this show started small. There I sat , in Austin, summer of2003, hunched over a cubicle at a dead-end call center job, drawing pictures of tombstones on Post-it Notes while I talked with people about cancer. I was miserable.
Then I took a call from a woman in Dallas. A Talker. A gum-smacking Talker who would not shut up. I’m an extremely patient listener, but this woman was driving me up the wall. I picked up a pen and drew a woman with a big mouth, then I drew another woman with a bigger mouth, then a bigger mouth. The more she talked, the more I drew, and the bigger her damn mouth became. It made me happy, like I was controlling the exchange somehow. We ended the call, and I had a drawing.
My next day off, I bought a sketchbook and a couple of black felt tip pens. I drew a grid of eight rectangles on the page, and whenever I had a chance during one of the 35 or more calls I took a day, I drew what I thought the caller looked like on the other side of the line and noted the city from which they called. When I finally quit my job six months later, I had two hundred and fifty portraits. The large painting here is the culmination of that sketchbook series.
At some point, I realized that talking to strangers wasn’t the reason I was miserable at my call center job. I was miserable because my job dictated what I had to talk about, and that meant not being myself. What if I removed all of the “jobbiness” of taking calls from the public and just interacted with strangers with my own rules?Nothing to sell, nothing to say, no agenda, no answers, no questions, no needs, and no rules. What would that feel like?
The Listening Post was born. For the last two months, I’ve advertised a toll free number with a variety of messages in the Houston Press and on Craigslist. I’ve gotten quite a few calls, and have drawn portraits of the callers and taken notes during our interactions. For about a month now, I have recorded our conversations(with their consent) and I’ve realized thatThe Listening Post isn’t just an intake process – it’s also a performance.
People like to think that they need an expert to figure things out for them. I do-that’s why I listen to Fresh Air and watch Judge Judy and pay for someone to do my taxes. But after having talked through a lot of problems with people these last two months, I think all we really need is to have someone listening.
If you need to talk, I want to listen. 1-877-EARS KNOW.”
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1968. As a child, worshipedPeanuts and Mad Magazine, collected trading cards, and rode the first wave of arcade video games. Graduated from The University of Kansas with a Bachelors of FineArts in 1991. Inspired by Duchamp, quit painting for ten years. Moved to Austin, started painting again and became staff illustrator for Herbivore Magazine in2003. Began showing and curating shows at Camp Fig gallery in 2005 and subsequently went on to found OkayMountain with eight friends in 2006. Has shown inAustin, Tulsa, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Manila, among other places. Died in 2040, hopefully.