I’m not here right now

Phone Messages: 1984–1996

About Paul Crisanti

Paul Crisanti

I’m a Chicago based artist. While having attended art school for two years and holding an art teaching degree, I am largely self taught, learning through doing, intuition and in collaborations with my fellow creatives and peers.

My work is not restricted to an exclusion media; photography, video, sound and sculpture all serve as tools for investigations concerning the nature of self, time and notions of reality. Much of the work also has a humorous aspect that toys humanity’s need to search for truth.

"I’m not here right now" was an idea born in the mid-80s from a reaction to the technology of the phone answering machine. Now anyone could record and preserve everyday communication for playback at a more "convenient" time.
Similar to the earlier tape recorder in its ability and like another new form of technology of the time, the VCR (video tape recorder) it also had the side-effect of shifting time, thereby altering our sense of reality.

Realtime communication began to slowly be replaced with the help of machines recording of it. This process continues to expand and grow and shows no signs of an end in sight. The only end that is in sight is of realtime face to face communication; in it’s most essential form, the conversation.

This can be seen in the tendency for individuals now preferring to "leave a message" to having a discussion.

The phone answering machine required one to be prepared to leave a brief, concise and fact-based message due to the fact that the recorder was often set to a short recording time length.

This requirement for brevity then conditioned us and has evolved today into our extensive use of abbreviations even though the limit of time is no longer a restriction. An ever-growing catalog of handy text friendly acronyms has all but replaced any individual expression for more commonly know "convenient" ones and has further eroded meaningful human interaction.
We are in fact using the machine language model and may in the near future communicate exclusively in ones and zeros, the digital form of grunts, growls and other mouth sounds that served as the foundation for the development of our verbal communication.

"I’m not here right now" then provides an early record of this journey from human interaction to human-machine interaction. Starting with people unprepared for an unfamiliar one-way conversation-message and strangeness of the non-humanity of the machine, to today which has evolved into our now apparent preference for this disconnection to our fellow humans that conversation once provided.

Along the way, the bond of our species has felt the strain. Empathy and other human emotions appear to be dissipating as a result. With it too has come an unbearable burden as we attempt to be more machine-like, amping our brain processing power through muti-tasking. It is no wonder for generations since the 80s, more and more children appear to suffer from behavioral and attention conditions as they are born into a world flooded with information, stimulus and noise. They are disconnected from society because the avenue, once available via direct human interaction has been replaced by the virtual. This new form of reality can only be experienced through a game and now any issue or conflict encountered can be remedied by a simple reboot.

Additionally this stress and frustration has expressed itself in seemingly unprovoked acts of rage and violence worldwide as we struggle to react to technology as inferior multi-tasking cyborgs apart and alone.
Not knowing who to blame we strikeout blindly.
We do not even realize that we have only to look at ourselves for the cause.

We are the willing Frankenstiens, all of us. We have made the choice and now must try to adapt to it.
It may take pulling the plug or the grid going offline to force us once more to depend upon direct human interaction.
Time will tell, and if the past is any indication, there should be a record of it.

Ansering Machine tapes

I’m Not Here Right Now: Message Categories

I have broken down the messages into 6 basic categories.


Simply put all messages left by males. Many particular in their manner of the male gender and how they choose to communicate. Always in some form, there is an underlying sense of competition.


Some of these are from friends and family, some from business and other of a more personal nature. And coming from females there is always the under current inherent in all interactions with the opposites of our species, a certain sense of tension and way of presenting.


Messages that are related to our commune with the machine, whether expressed in the awe of new technology or the frustrations of dealing with it, these are very telling indeed. Concerns that are now archaic by today’s standards still point to the same truth: Technology's destiny is to be replaced by ever-newer forms of itself. However what is not as obvious is as we come to depend more and more on the machine to speak for us, act for us, to stand in for us, what then will be our fate? Will we also be replaced in the future, and by what?


These are a collection of curious and often humorous messages from both men and women. As I have known many creative individuals over the years, they often used the phone message as an opportunity to express it.


Here I have gone abstract, taking parts of messages and combining them into new worlds of sound. In some cases there are layers and clusters of non-words I call phono-vocalisms, which are the sounds we make to buy time as we form our verbal communication. These are often very expressive and primal in nature. To this end I create primal forests populated with these sounds. One can imagine creatures calling out to each other in the darkness. I have also strung together series of numbers; symbols for dates and times which in this form reveal their truth abstract character. Then there are those that are layers of partial sentences, phrases and single words, which form new relationships and meanings. Finally there are those, which cannot be easily categorized and must just be experienced.


These are messages being left now (so to speak). Messages can be left by using the phone number on the Contact page: 312.239.0985
Simply call it, and let it ring until you hear an annoucement to leave you message. You can remain anonymous or leave your name.
Be part of the "Present"!

Related Areas of Interest and Investigation:

A collection writings, photographs and other forms of media related to my subjects of creative investigation.

The Nature of Self, Life and Love:

Some Self

We all start out the same, what is made of it is up to us.

Feelings of Love:

The depth of ones feelings for anything can only be measured by the courage required to accept its eventual loss.

Life is a temporary and changing thing.
Our time here is short.
But, we can live on in the hearts and minds of others.
Keep them close.

Why is it that so many people who chose to stand out, to be unique, try to do so by imitating others?
If you can't recognize your own uniqueness you are lost.

A space of REGRET:

Is REGRET greater for what has been done or what has not been done?
Better then to ACT with the greatest care, for many things can yet be done but few undone.

We do things to Remember
We do things to Forget.
What we decide to do of each becomes our Life.

Knowing takes a lifetime:

Many when first discovering a belief system think themselves instantly Enlightened by it.
These are only the first steps of a life journey.
What you first feel is Delightenment.


I think about thinking, then I think about that, then that.
Thinking is very thought provoking.

How Not To Seem Crazy:

Not seeming crazy

It occurred to me the more I shared my crazy thoughts, the more normal I would appear.
When one person has a different thought, they are often thought of as "Crazy".
However, if a group of people has that same thought (by sharing it), it is considered "Normal".
Crazy right?

Are you now or have you ever been an Object?

A Precious Object?
An Object of Desire?
An Object of Ridicule?
Objectified Generally?
Do you Object to being an Object?
What can come of Objections by Objects?


Is Optimism a sort of Chronic Hopefulness?
Does attitude affect outcomes?
Who can say, but it is certainly more pleasant to entertain Optimism than endure Pessimism.
We may not have control over many events in our life beyond our attitude toward it and experience of it.
Maybe that is enough.

Do You Talk To Yourself?

Talk to yourself

  • There are those who speak in a normal conversational tone like their inner self is now outside standing next to them.
  • There are those who whisper or mumble like it’s a secret nobody but them knows.
  • There are those who use a special voice: - The singer voice - The character voice - The strange voice that refers to ‘We’.

Why do we even need to talk to ourselves?
Its not like the thought didn’t come out of the same mind that is doing the speaking in the first place.
I’ll have to ask myself that sometime.


In the end it's personal choice.
Whether its ancient Faith or Magic or even the ever changing 'facts' of science,
we need something to fill in the gaps to the What’s and Why’s of our lives.
That could be what Normal is.

Personally, I take no comfort or security in common beliefs or whether others share my visions or opinions.
I act on what I feel. Keeping 13 years of phone messages could be considered crazy.
What am I trying to hold on to? Time? I could just be a functioning Lunatic.
Now that, I'm comfortable with.

Crazy Town

Are you having the time of your life?

Life is a time journey that starts by going outside of oneself and ends by going into oneself.
In youth, we are lead by developing senses to experience the outside world.
In advancing years, as those senses diminish,
we respond by going inward for experience and reflection of our life's time.
Are you having the time of your life?
What else could you have?

The 3 Books Of Life:


Written in our Youth, it is about the struggle to know and find a place in the world.

Written in Maturity, it is a series of revelations,
the awareness of the greater world beyond one's own needs and of finally becoming a part of it.

The last and final book is written on only one page, and it simply reads "The End".

Without support all things fall:


Be it a physical thing, a belief, idea or theory, all things need support.
Even the tallest mountains are held by the earth beneath.
Look around you then, at what allows you to stand.
Look at your support.
Look closer still at the foundation of that support. Is it solid and true?
If we would be like mountains, and reach for the heavens, look to your support.

The Village Idiot:

Today anyone labeled "idiot" often ends up raising themselves.
This is where modern civilizations fall short.
In more ancient times, the "different ones" were held to be in communication with the gods and therefore holy.
And to keep the gods happy, the village supported them.
Too bad we have lost our ability to appreciate "difference" and not treat it as a threat or with ridicule.

The Nature of Time and Reality:

Reality as seen

What is the Present?

We cannot actually grasp the present time.
The moment we realize the present it passes.
So we live somewhere in between it,
the recent past and a near future.

Don't Mind Me, just passing through….

Neither a rerun of yesterday nor a rehearsal of tomorrow,
today is just today.

I know I am awake because I am not dreaming.
I know I am dreaming because I am not awake.
I know that I know,
I don't know what I don't know.
Am I dreaming?

The Present was but once a Dream in the Past.

It has been said that “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity".
Never take your time for granted.
It is a wise course then to set yourself right each morning to making the best use of that day.

The familiar grows strange in the lateness of the hour

Will our beliefs save us from ourselves or will they lead us to our oblivion?
It may depend upon the nature of our beliefs and now we act upon them.

The One, True Currency Is Breaths & Beats:

There is only one measure of the cost paid for anything.
It is the number of breaths drawn and beats of the heart spent acquiring it.
We have a finite number of each.

To Share is Human:

Better Not to Waste the Time we are given to Share
than to live with the Regret of not having done so,
once that Time has Passed.

Time Traveler:

Time Traveler

Are you alienated by space and time?
Not in sync with the current flow of events?
Are you off kilter, out of step, out of it in general?
Maybe you are a time traveler, just touring,
a visitor, who can feel comfort, but never at home.
Wouldn’t that explain a lot?

Is the TIME too late or too early?


Look BACK and you will always be too late for your focus is on a time that has passed.
Look FORWARD and you will spend your time waiting for the time of things to come.
Better it never be too late or too early then, but an ever present now time.
There is only enough time for NOW.

Can a Thing be Defined by it’s Opposite?

Good is the Absence of Evil?
Light is the Opposite of Dark
Right when no Wrong has been done?
This Approach fails to define either.
Knowing what a Thing is not, is Not Knowing what a Thing is.


To Believe a thing likely to be true given what is Known AND what is Not Known about it.
I suppose this could serve as a Definition for Reality- from what I know and don’t know of it that is.

Less Than:

To all those less than the embodiment of human perfection
To all those less than genius
And to all those less than strong
Be comforted, you are not alone

Advice to the Young:

Listen to half of what the old tell you and forget the rest.

Advice to the Old:

Listen to everything the young tell you.
The forgetting part takes care of itself.

Is dwelling on the past like continually visiting a grave to leave flowers?
And as those flowers wilt, we are driven to visit yet again and offer another fresh sacrifice,
until it is time for we ourselves to be placed in a grave.
Who then will bring the flowers?

The Biggest Lie:

The Biggest Lie we tell ourselves is that we don’t lie to ourselves.

Are you Life Curious?

And what could that even mean,
you’re interested in a life experience but not enough to commit to it?

The Price of Self-Awareness and the Loss of Innocence:

The loss of innocence

Maybe this is duh-obvious but this morning I woke up feeling it profoundly or maybe finally realizing it fully.
In order to form an ego, our individual identity, we must choose to give away our virgin innocence.
We must choose to leave the Play-Filled La La Land of Childhood Eden.
It is the process of our toys becoming our tools.
And part of this price too, is for a life long regret for having done so.
We feel it most in the company of our youngest, a feeling of envy.
But existing too, along with the simplicity of innocence is vulnerability.
There is a need to depend on others for our well being which we rebel against.
We instinctively resend the restriction of our freedom.
It is a conflict because we are driven by both desires.
And because they are at opposites, there can be no resolution.
We can only accept that it is so and hope to find a balance between the two.
And this then becomes the mission of our life, Balance and Acceptance.
But maybe this too is duh-obvious.

The Struggle to Change:

Sometimes Change is our choice and at other times it is forced upon us by events we cannot control.
Whatever names it goes by,
the point of Change is that dramatic last stand at the end of one stage and on the borderline to another one.
There can be no Change without struggle.
This is because we must let go of the familiar thing before we can reach for or accept the new thing.
Like it or not, want it or not, we must do this to go forward.
This is the nature of Change and why it is a struggle.
So adapt to Change and make it work in your favor.
Growth is the key to this. There can be no real Change without Growth.
Growth is Life itself.

An UNCANNY Resemblance:

I thought I knew what it was so there was no mystery in it.
Yet for it’s uncanny resemblance to another thing, was unsettled by it.
This IMPERFECT suggestion had changed my perceptions of the single simple thing I thought I knew.
How then could I ever be sure of KNOWING anything again?



I love the timeless in-between moments of unrushed time when first waking, as you lay there in bed, alone with the shadows.
Such a PEACE, in perfect balance and harmony, and in those slowly changing shadows there is the HOPE of all possibilities.
I am not worried or concerned for at this MOMENT, time and other things have made no demands of me, have taken nothing from me.
I am alive in this moment. I am COMPLETE.


A thing simply is. It is matter.
No lack of awareness, acceptance or judgment of it can alter its nature.
And there is only one way to know or even truly see a thing, in its relationship to us.
So a thing is really a relationship, and the effect it produces around it.
What matters isn’t matter, it is the nature of matter.


I have a great memory. I can't even remember the last time forgot anything!


IS it sharing common beliefs or opinions that makes you Normal?
Is this sharing the basis for your concept of Reality?


The difference between Illusion and Delusion is that Illusion can be entertaining,
while Delusion can be dangerous.
With Illusion, you can fool others, but with Delusion, you can only fool yourself.

Spring forward?

I don't remember jumping back.
Make up whatever time suits you I guess.
I mean really, no matter how you view it,
the passing of time has the same effect; it ages you.

A definition for Aging:

The process of going from making history to becoming it.

Innovation = Alienation = Lamentation = Nostalgia

Nostalgia is feeling a sense of loss for something you never had.

These Times:

Time is very important, we only have so much of it and we don't know how much that is.
Watches have made a big comeback,
is it just the bling thing or are we finally realizing its the only thing we truly have,
for a while that is.

Starting My Very Own Brand New Reality Show!!!

That is, once I figure out what Reality is, or at least my version of it.



I have moved,
sometimes stumbling,
sometimes running,
sometimes forward,
sometimes back,
in circles of familiarity and confusion.
No maps, or signs or light to guide,
just the moving,
the moving through time.

Can we ever truly focus on the "now"
when the storing of information through artificial memory
lets past stand simultaneously with present,
when all experiences are instantly and infinitely recyclable?

So if Nostalgia is our tool for interpreting the past,
and irony the tool of choice in the present,
what will we reach for and will serve us in the future,

The Search For Reality Can Drive One Mad! This Guideline May Prove Helpful:

The search for reality

The 10 Warning Signs Of Madness

  1. You don’t remember what you worn yesterday or if you even wore anything for that matter.
  2. You have a ‘little’ inside version of yourself that does all the talking for you,
    but you’re the only one who can hear them.
  3. You look in the mirror and your reflection isn’t reversed.
  4. You keep waiting for people to notice you, but you haven’t left the house in weeks.
  5. You are most comfortable in a fetal position.
  6. You feel like having a tea party, everyday.
  7. You acquire a new super power each day.
  8. You can’t seem to remember where you left your cape.
  9. You feel you may have lost your mind, but have quit looking for it.
  10. You have big plans for the future, as soon as it arrives.

Found this "Wisdom Of The Ages" quote which could be a great definition of Nostalgia:
"For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past."
(Psalm 90:4)

No matter how early I start something, I already feel late for it.
Feel like a clock that can't keep up with its own time.
Maybe I'm just overwound.
Maybe I need a new clock with just a second hand,
micro second hand and Nano second hand.
That might do it. At least I 'd know how late I was.

The Nature of Technology:


Project: Metamorphosis

Sacrificing the soul, they became gods of their own invention.

Are You Opposed?

Was the true evolutionary purpose of opposable thumbs to text?
It appears so, these days anyway.

I just accidently clicked "Command + A" in my browser
and selected the entire Internet!
What should I do now, download?

Peek Signal:

Peek signal

It is getting pretty crowded "out there".
Eyes that see and record everything,
Signals of messages, images and sounds
sending and receiving from everywhere to everywhere.
Are you more Receptive or Transmissive in nature?

The Search For Self is being replaced
by The Search For Selfie.

Insert self here

Obsolescence is the inevitable future of all technologies.
But, unlike machines, we as humans have the option to 'self-adapt' thereby continuing to be a relevant.
So beware, do not hold too tight to form and time
or you too may find yourself discarded, a curiosity of the past, a memory.

Nomo Sapiens:

We are crossing a line and it could be our undoing.
Humanity has evolved by the ability to adapt to the environment.
Along the line we have come to believe the environment must adapt to us.
I fear we will be proven wrong,
and an old survivor may step up to take our place as new master of earth,
the Roach.


The Nature of Art, Beauty and Truth:

Art, Truth and Beauty

Any subject or object can be Art.
Art is a matter of perception.
It is seen with the mind not the eyes.

We can never run out of things to create.
But we can run out of things to destroy.

DO NOT put too much stock in beauty, for it always disappoints.
As soon as it is perceived, it begins to fade.

Beauty fades

For Beauty's Sake:

There are those who create beauty and are praised for it,
but equal to this are those who seek to preserve it.
Both are needed for beauty to exist in our lives.
Choose your role and act upon it.

Growing Beauty:

Take a seed, nourish it, and help it to grow and flower.
It is so simple and direct, so natural.
What applies to a flower could apply to so many other things and be equally true.
If you love or appreciate something,
then help it grow, help bring it into the world.
Support it.
See how the seedling bends toward the light?
It knows what it needs and is drawn to it.
It cannot live in the shadows.
There is a special light for all creations,
which allows them to grow and to be seen.
Be that Special Light.
Nourish what you love.
Grow Beauty.


Am I too IGNORANT to realize what I don’t know?
Or too SMART and realize that I don’t know?
AND in the end, does it make a DIFFERENCE?
I don’t know.

The Truth is always in right front of you.
But for it to be seen, you must to be ready to accept it.

Our Deeds & Accomplishments often outlive us,
and can become our legacy.
Take care what you choose to do of either.

Simple Minded Truth:

Sounds like an insult, and it is often the intent of those saying it.
But true simplicity is really a beautiful thing to strive for.
To strip away all that is unnecessary,
to reveal the essence of something,
to what makes it what it is,
to what makes it unique.
We are surrounded by so much noise and clutter
that we are often blinded to seeing or feeling anything for what it really is.
That is the simple truth.

Ignorance is equal parts misconception and confusion.
One cannot ignore the truth.



Let me have the strength needed to do what must be done.
Let me have the patience to see it through to its completion.
Let me then find peace.


There are Places I go to for many Reasons.
There are Places for Sharing.
There are Places for Solitude.
There are Places for Work.
There are Places for Growth.
I have many Places.
But in the end, I will have but one Place,
my Place of Rest.