3-screen video & sound installation, with images, text and transcripts of a simulated chat room conversation | 2003

In this installation (which also doubles as a piece of text-based one-act electronic theatre), transcripts of chat sessions constitute an electronic patchwork that also includes real and simulated audio recordings of conversations between call centre workers and their clients, images of a female larynx, the text of a re-worked Upanishadic dialogue, and video recordings of a spoken English class in Delhi. The work presents the map of the world as a grid of reflecting surfaces marked by shifting inequalities, and the call centre worker as a figure in this mirrored world, demanding a new understanding of the world, of what it means to labour, in a place, and across space. The transcripts occupy an interstitial semantic space with regard to veracity, poised somewhere between the fact of the ubiquitous practice of impersonation in the call centre industry, and the theatrical fiction of a ‘performance’ scripted for a chat room. 

‘A/S/L?’ (Age/Sex/Location) is one of the most frequently asked queries in any conversation in cyberspace. While in a chat room, it may be an invitation to an online dalliance with its own rituals of masquerade and morphing, in the real world of translocated online labour, the query, if made, reveals a matrix of competing points of anchorage, as well as the contrary poles of gender and geography. A/S/L is a video + text installation on the lives of women workers in the online data outsourcing industry in India. The seemingly virtual character of online space needs to be recognized as one that is fashioned through the very real labour of those who work in the new economies. A/S/L destabilizes the geographical certitude of a map of the world that works on the basis of centres and ‘peripheries’ by pointing out that the map of online labour inverts these notions to create new constellations and dynamics of industrial concentration.

The installation is a meditation on this, new gendered geography of online labour, on the everyday journeys into cyberspace that hundreds of thousands of labouring women make across the world. It is a document and a dramatization of the questions that surround these daily migrations between online and off-line worlds. It addresses the viewer with video, text and sound within the framework of an on site installation.

— Monica Narula [Raqs Media Collective], 2004 

Exhibition History

Geography and the Politics of Mobility, Generali Foundation, Vienna, January-April 2003

Globalia, Frauen Museum, Bonn, 2004. Squeaky Wheel Foundation, USA, 2004

World Information City, Bangalore, November 2005

Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, December 2005 – January 2006.