A Brief Look at Peter Shelley’s Telephone Operator (1983)

by Paddy Johnson on September 24, 2015 Blurb


I’ve been a passive fan of Peter Shelley’s Telephone Operator (1983) for a while, but only today did I think to look up the video. All these years, I’d never paid close enough attention to realize the song is about an upset drunk male whose come ons haven’t seduced a telephone operator! As it happens, the video fetishizes digital technology using much of the same iconography as digital artists. Circuitry is everywhere and so are computers. Here, we see a circuit board shirt, circuit board line drawings, actual circuit boards, a computer, a room full of computers, a room full of telephones, dot matrix print outs, and Tron-like renderings of figures and the inside of telephone cables. All of this seems to suggest a rather creepy scenario in which Shelley becomes increasingly obsessed. Even 30 years ago, technology was a good way to violate other people’s privacy. And much like today, also a convenient way to get laid.

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