Institute of Sociometry Communiqué: Operation Qwest Vex

Categories: Art


Special Agent Peter Miles Regenold Bergman of the Institute of Sociometry relayed this official memo concerning a recent experi-stunt involving those stacks of Qwest phone books that Dex routinely abandons in lobbies of offices and apartments across the city. This marks the first action the Institute has undertaken downtown since the great origami crane attack of 2005. Video by Vincent Comparetto and photos by Rhy Jouett after the jump. –Jared Jacang Maher

Monday May 19, 8:50 am, Denver, Colorado: A crack-squadron of 13 agents of the international pranktivist collective Institute of Sociometry (IS) donated an unsolicited "minimalist sculpture" comprised of 576 phone books to the Qwest corporate headquarters at 1801 California Street.

The sculpture was 2 feet, 6 inches high and rectangular in shape, approximating the look of an enormous phone book. The several hundred normal phone books that comprised the sculpture were of varying thickness and color. In the course of a year, a typical Denver Metro household will receive each of the following: a 2.5 inch thick White Dex, a 2.5 inch thick Yellow Dex, possibly a 1.5 inch thick Yellow Dex A-L, a 1.5 inch thick Yellow Dex M-Z, a smaller format Dex Plus. Also, depending on demographics, the household may receive a combined (white and yellow) suburban directory or Dex En Espanol.
QwestVex_01.jpg IS agents spent six months amassing 28 separate varieties of phonebooks in Denver and the west suburbs. These publications had been either left unclaimed for at least one month at apartment or office buildings, or were used by customers for a year and thrown out with the arrival of the 2008 book. Six variants were published by Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, or Venison. Twenty two variants were published by Dex, a division of publisher RR Donnely, which has a contract with the telecommunications company to produce and deliver the phone book.

Prior to assembling the sculpture in the Qwest corporate plaza, IS agents were instructed by squadron leaders to “avoid eye contact with bystanders at all times” and to answer all inquiries from the company’s security with the phrase "I'm just supposed to drop these off." When the IS squadron began briskly piling the books in front of the Qwest building, they were indeed approached by security, but ultimately allowed to continue with their mission. The donated sculpture was intended to serve a function. As with any well crafted minimalist sculpture gracing a corporate plaza, the Qwest Vex book reflected its architectural surroundings and provided an ergonomically designed, functional apparatus for employees to interact with while sitting and enjoying their lunch break.

A man identifying himself as public relations personnel exited from the building and immediately sought out our IS agent posing as an "independent photographer." The agent was asked if he was "from the paper." Qwest public relations told our agent that they would surely recycle the books.

QwestVex_07.jpg Indeed, within ten minutes a small army of Qwest maintenance employees immediately emerged from the towering edifice with large janitorial bins adorned with freshly laser-printed recycle symbols scotch-taped on them. They swiftly disassembled the sculpture and scurried back into the building. IS officially condemns the callous removal of their donated minimalist sculpture. It points to a flagrant disregard for even the basest level of art appreciation!

But while unanticipated by IS, Qwest’s actions indicate a desire to be a responsible corporate citizen by encouraging the use of their plaza as a convenient, centrally located, recycling depository for unwanted phone books.

And here it is in live action!

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