Soon Obsolete

A week ago, I spied this sign, attached to a chain link fence on a construction site near my work. Thought it was strange, maybe a relic from a bygone era, but mostly just loved it as a metaphor for a seven-year-old codebase we’re about to ditch. Still, the words NONCHALANCE VIABILITY SURVEY rang in the back of my brain. This was too odd to be accidental.

Last night, I pulled up the picture again and noticed that it included a toll-free number. Decided to give it a call – why not? What I heard next was… well, you’ll just have to call it yourself and see.


So apparently the whole thing is an art project of some kind – subtle and “official-looking” enough to pass for just more bureaucratic signage, so easy to walk past, not notice, be ignored. But just below the surface is something that rings a bit like a Church of the Subgenius 20 years later. Digging deeper, found this SFMOMA article about the project (and related ones), which in turn linked to Elsewhere Public Works, who apparently run the Nonchalance Viability Survey. Dig the arcane command line interface at the Elsewhere site.

I keep thinking about how this sign could have been just a raised eyebrow to me, barely noticed. How much do we miss on a daily basis? In the swirling miasma of culture, there are unnoticed touchstones that lead to paths that goes as deep and as far as we care to follow.

5 Replies to “Soon Obsolete”

  1. After calling from my iPhone I immediately got an SMS from 83960 reading:

    “ALERT: Wea€?re on the move!
    Tune-in to Radio
    (Dispatches from Elsewhere)
    107.9FM Upper Dolores Park
    (Beware the Jejune Institute!)”

    Pirate radio station, perhaps?

  2. In reference to the SMS you recieve, if you respond with the word “Stop” it will respond with verification that you have been unsubscribed from the Clickatell services.

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