to look at the messages we write as a giant hole in the ground not meant to be filled with conceivable meaning but a sort of mystery of meaning.
Untitled, fluorescents & sensors, 2011.
Again, LOVESPEAK! was the starting point for both the two devices and the fluorescents. In this project I wanted to pull away from this layer of communicating love and wanted to explore other means of achieving these so-called heightened moments of emotional response and feeling, these moments of experiencing what we would call mysterious, romantic or unlikely. I also wanted to work within the ethics of Hans Haacke, Roman Signer, Andrew Friend, Elisa Sighicelli, and Sebstian Hempel, who all use simple industrial tools and effects to create these extraordinary moments that suspend disbelief. I wanted to use simple ingredients for this project, I wanted my tool set to be very concise and limited, to be careful not to clutter or complicate the idea; to essentially work within everyday tools as a constraint to achieve a lyrical result.
The project here acts as a light study that uses three components: (1) fluorescents, (2) sensors, and (3) distance as its primary means of exploration. I use fluorescents as a medium for the simple fact that they are easily accessible and cheap. And beyond that, there is a mysterious quality that fluorescents are able to bring out in a space through positioning, angle, reflection and color. For instance, the work of Dan Flavin, who exclusively used fluorescents as his medium to create these vibrant spaces that achieved this eerily experience, this frightening glow of light and color. My goal for this piece was to allow the lights to somehow be able to sense each other in the field, and sort of offer up the story of these lights communicating to each other. To do this, I used basic light sensors (photocells) attached to each light. The goal was to allow each light to trigger itself so when each light would turn on, its own light projected out would trigger another light to play out its own sequence of light. I wanted the experience of these fluorescents to feel as if one were experiencing a symphony of light or that of field of light communicating and playing amongst themselves. I also wanted to play with this idea of adding proximity to the lights. I felt by adding a second layer of sensing to the lights, the experience of these things could become much more real, rather than just being an orchestrated sequence of light reactive to itself, their communication now would become more responsive and delicate to the presence of the environment.
Right now, my wish is to continue using simple, everyday tools (light and sensors as my main medium) and story as the main driving force behind the development of these devices and installations, because I really enjoy Joseph Campbell’s explanation for the reason why we need mythology in things, and it’s because as human beings we are constantly searching for meaning in life, and Campbell argues that it is not the answer that we are looking for, but a meaningful life experience. And in some way I want to be able to capture that experience when people see these things and interact with them, whether it is through a field of fluorescents, flickering lights in the sky, or two devices that go to great lengths to communicate their love for one another. Again, my goal is not to successfully pass along the same excitement that I get, or the same experience that I have when seeing these things, I am only trying to allow them to fill in the gaps with their own imagination—to give them room to create and explore their own story.
Untitled, two devices, light, antenna & sensors, 2011.
I wanted to move away from LOVESPEAK!, an earlier experiment that touched on this idea of sentient objects. The main reason was because there was too many conflicting ideas or themes rather that got in the way of my initial intent, which was to create these devices where our imagination could complete the story. I put LOVESPEAK! on hold and felt by doing so, I could concentrate on simplifying some of the ideas that were already there or that came out of previous sketches or projects. However, the most important thing was that I didn’t want to give up the story aspect behind the two objects because it is my inspiration. So instead, I felt maybe I could use their story as a constraint, as a way of solving a problem. Since the story is simple, the problem is simple: two devices whose sole purpose is to communicate to each other. Now, the more difficult part was investigating this relationship through simple means. For this, I turned to Hans Haacke’s “Blue Sail” (1965) as a reference point, because if we were to dissect the making of the “Blue Sail” what you’ll notice is that its components are uncomplicated and common, and because of this, the result due to its simplicity is lyrical. The ethics of Haacke’s process is that of ordinary things, where the relationship between these objects create these experiences that become greater than itself. With this project of two devices, I wanted to do the same, but with things we consider ordinary today. I would replace the sail and industrial fan with light, powered antenna’s, and sensors. I wanted the appearance of these devices to be as plain and as unsophisticated as possible. I also wanted their means of communication to be as simple and uncomplicated as possible. The first reason being is that I wanted people to fill in their own story between the two devices and the experience shared between them. Like that of Haacke and Roman Signer, whose work can be described as setting the stage, where they simply place the elements there on the stage, and it is up to us the spectator, to create and complete the story between these elements. The second reason being is that I wanted to use ordinary things, common things found throughout our everyday, rearrange and re-purpose them in a way that could fulfill the myth of the objects and also encourage an experience that is greater than itself.
The story behind these two devices is that through noise, our physical obstruction placed on these objects (e.g., chatter, moving people, or objects), the two devices will search for each other until they find a stronger, more stable surface to continue their communication. The blinking lights represents their communication to each other, where the antenna represents their frustration and search to find one another. The following is a quick video documentation of physical obstruction (e.g., a moving body) placed on the objects.
In this experiment, I wanted to explore the idea of two devices in constant longing for one another and how that relationship would play out across different scenarios. The goal was to investigate this gap between technology and story through the myth of these two devices. This idea of using existing technology, applying a story to that technology, and then seeing what type of experience would manifest from that relationship. The experiment was played out across three stages: (1) Proximity, which dealt with the two devices’s longing for each other across a distance; (2) Presence, which challenged the devices affinity by intruding onto their love; and (3) Mimicry, teaching the devices how to love. Again, I was curious to see the types of relationships that could come out through the two devices’s longing to always be together, and to potentially open up other types of scenarios that could be added to enrich the relationship shared between them or in separating them. Though this experiment acts as a stand in to a real record of the devices, as make believe; it does not mean that such a relationship cannot exist, in fact, it is through current technologies that we can begin to add elements of mythos, of story to enrich the ways in which we experience these technologies and to ultimately allow room for others to fill these gaps with their own imagination—to allow room for their own emotions, their own experiences to vicariously live through the mythos in which these technologies can become.
I realized after putting together this video experiment that it would be interesting if I could create obstacles that would work against the two devices, that would constantly obstruct their affinity for each other. And for every obstacle these devices would encounter they would find ways to overcome them. For example, let’s say that their sole purpose in life is to communicate their love for one another. To them there is no other greater purpose in life than to share their deep affinity towards each other no matter the consequences, the lengths, or the pains to achieve it. Now, these devices would have to be equipped with special gadgetry, technologies, sensors, hardware, etc., that could allow them to overcome such obstacles, much like the obstacles that we face everyday (traffic, work, temptation, distance, et cetera). But to keep things simple, let’s use distance as the primary means of obstruction. Imagine for a moment, that when these two devices are face-to-face they take their original form but as they become increasingly more distant and as things obstruct their line of sight, they begin to extend themselves upwards until they can see each other again, fulfilling their devoted purpose to share their love for each other no matter the obstacle. At this point, this would be the next step in investigating this relationship between story and technology, and of course stretching the possibilities to how these devices can communicate through obstruction.
But why is this relationship between the two devices, their story, and their technologies important? Today, there is a lack of story in technology, especially in using story to further our understanding, interaction and application of technology in the future. Today technology creates the story for us rather than us creating the story in which technology can become. It is through story, whether it be poetic, romantic, heroic, or tragic that we can begin to see how we might interact, communicate or even sense our world in the future. And that is what is ultimately exciting. It is exciting to imagine that simply repurposes current technology in ways that go against their own logical order, by simply creating this obstruction through story can potentially help us reclaim our future. To create a future that lives up to the expectation of our imagination.
I wanted to create a story that read alongside the sounds of a classical symphony. Where certain parts of the story and character could only be taken in at that particular moment. So this idea of achieving this unfolding array of human emotion at particular moments of a symphony. Moments that could never be achievable, experienced or relived again because they belong to those moments in which they were first experienced. Time remains constant, and so do our lives, and in this way, no matter what happens, time continues on. I applied three techniques to the overall story: (1) fragmentation; (2) notation; and (3) layering. I used fragmentation as way to deconstruct and pull a part each of the words used in the story to offer up a sense of mystery and multiple entry points into the reading of the character and the story itself. I then took a classical symphony, played that continuously, and wrote out the experience of the character alongside its unfolding. The final step was taking both the fragmentation and notation elements created from the story and then literally overlapping them onto each other to create a read that is chaotic, messy, and ambivalent. The aim was to create a type of story experience that is in some ways nonrecurring but yet everlasting because each time through adds a different element to the story or imagination that was not there before.
Interview: Synthesis of Language, Mark Eaton, Literary Theorist & Professor
On October 4, 2011, I conducted an interview with Mark Eaton, a Literary Theorist and English Professor at Azusa Pacific University, to discuss ideas about language. Questions and responses are as follows:
B: O.K., so I have been giving this question a lot thought recently, especially in how it relates to language right now, and I very curious to see what your reactions might be. What would you say, right now, is the current status of language? What are the types of shifts in language that you see happening now that you feel may change the way we use, see or even imagine language tomorrow?
ME: Language has always been in a state of constant change, but the pace of change has perhaps accelerated with the advent of electronic and information technologies. People are using language on personal computers and handheld devices in new ways. Email, Facebook, and Twitter are only three examples of the kinds of writing that people are doing a lot of these days, and these are different ways of using language than, say, handwritten (or typed) correspondence sent through the postal system. For better and for worse, language use tends to be somewhat less formal and much less edited than in the past. Perhaps it’s more utilitarian. Language posted on the internet tends to have a lot of grammatical and spelling errors. The bad part about this is that people are demonstrably less articulate than they used to be. For example, a study of speeches delivered in Congress found that Congress members of the past had a larger vocabulary and used more ornate, rhetorical styles of speech than today’s Congress members do.
B: It’s interesting to think that even though these digital devices afford new, immediate ways of communicating, it still seems that somewhere along the way things get left behind, in this case, literacy. And beyond that, this idea that as language changes, and as these devices make it easier for us to communicate, maybe it is not much a dumbing down on language, but a compression of language. Perhaps language is becoming condensed and more sophisticated than we think, but just haven’t realized it yet? We see shorthand as an expression of teenage loafing, but we forget its importance in language compression, which it does so well. By simply typing out the expression of a happy face “:)” can replace having to write out, “I am happy.” And I think this is where language compression is headed — and what makes shorthand so effectual is its ability to simplify language. But this is something we can get back to a bit later. I stumbled upon this discussion between Daniel J. Levitin, a neuroscientist, and David Byrne, a singer / songwriter, and what I found to be fascinating about this pair up was Levitin’s argument that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. What are your first reactions to this statement? Especially in regards to your practice that relies so heavily on language?
ME: George Steiner, a literary critic from Cambridge, made a similar argument in his book “Real Presences.” I did a presentation on this book at a graduate seminar at Oxford University last spring. My initial reaction to that statement is mixed: maybe it is more fundamental than language, maybe not, but can you imagine doing without one or the other. Which is to say I don’t think it matters in the end which one is more fundamental. I would just say that both are pretty fundamental to what it means to be human. And really, if I had to choose between the two, I would have to say that language is the more indispensable of the two.
B: Steven Pinker, a linguist, described that as long as there is a need to communicate, there will always be some form of language — language, much like the things around us, will at some point need to evolve, adapt and re-assimilate itself into popular culture. What are some of your thoughts on language evolution in respects to current digital and cultural shifts?
ME: As mentioned in my previous answer in #1, I think current digital and cultural shifts are definitely changing the way we use language, and language in turn is changing. The number of newly coined terms, for instance, is higher than ever. New terms are invented all the time, like “google.” In terms of everyday use of language, most people no longer bother to use “he or she” when there is a singular antecedent; they just use “they” with singular antecedents, which is grammatically incorrect but so widespread that it will likely come to be considered correct soon.
B: I see, because this sort of ties into the idea of compressional language. We become so used to certain principles and conditions set within language that we no longer bother to include them, and not because we don’t necessarily understand them, but because we understand them so well, or at least recognize them so well, we no longer feel the need to include them and instead skip these steps. I can imagine getting to a point where we no longer need to say “he or she or even they,” there will be some other form to illustrate that for us. Saying this, what would you say is the hardest emotion to express through language?
ME: Hmm. I’m not a particularly emotional person. But then, being a literature professor, I’d be inclined to say that language is actually pretty good at expressing a lot of emotions. Maybe it’s not so good at expressing sexual ecstasy, a bodily sensation that is better left as a felt experience rather than a described one.
B: OK. That is actually not the response I was expecting, but it makes sense. Even Levitin in his interview goes on to suggest that language actually fails horribly in expressing those types of feelings. But I also feel that music doesn’t do a great job at expressing them either. Perhaps, these types of emotions are best left unexpressed, but I guess the point that I am trying to get at is that even in these particular moments of heightened experience, we wish to express ourselves even though we can’t seem to find the right words or even songs to do so. The fact that this feeling exist, I feel there are other forms of communication not yet discovered that can make this process easier for us. With that said, I don’t wish to take too much of your time. So, I wish to thank you again for your time in this discussion.
Thomas Castro from LUST paid a visit to our studio this past week and shared some thoughts on design. I’ll do my best to summarize. In Holland there are two terms that are used to describe design: (1) Vormgever; and (2) Ontwerper. Vormgever is described where form exceeds function; and Ontwerper is described where function precedes form. In other words, Vormgever is where the form is created through aesthetics, as in Ontwerper form is created through its meaning. Gert Dumbar, a Dutch graphic designer, was asked to do a interview which was later titled Clowns, Chairs and Dutch Foreign Affairs, for Michéle Champagne’s new digital, critical magazine, That New Design Smell, where he dives into explaining these two terms in relation to Holland and the U.S.: “In the Anglo-Saxon language there’s only one word for design, which is design. That is something you should work out. Vormgeving is more to make things look nice. So for instance, packaging for a perfume or for chocolate in order to make things fashionable, obsolete and therefore bad for society because we don’t really need it. While ontwerpe means, and the Anglo-saxon word, but its stronger, means engineering. That means you as a person try to invent a new thing—which is intelligent, which is clever, and which will have a long-life. And that’s called stylistic durability. It means you can use it for a long time.” The way that I have come to understand these two terms, and Castro made this same point, is that there are two sides of design, and at the end of the day, which side would you rather be on. At some point, and this mainly applies to the work we produce and the work we associate ourselves with, our aim is to become Ontwerpers, designers who are constantly paving the way and taking the risks to design something that is what Dumbar refers to as “stylistic durability”—a timelessness. But Ontwerper is not to be misunderstood as a balanced blending of the two, design does not need to be beautiful or provocative in order for it to be lasting, these are only conditions of design that we have implemented into our education and practice of design that is then translated into the way we see, engage and accept design in the world today. Function is beauty in design, however, designing that type of beauty, that type of efficiency in design is not easy. Perhaps, the goal is not to confuse ourselves between the two, but to instead consider the simpler definition of Ontwerper, which is creator of meaning, and then go from there.
Précis, 2011: Daniel J. Levitin and David Byrne, Science is Culture, 2010
In 2010, Adam Bly, co-founder of SEED, conducted an intereview between Daniel J. Levitin, a neuroscientist, and David Byrne, a singer/songwriter, a piece later titled “On Music.”
Both Levitin and Byrne met up at SEED in New York to discuss ideas about music, language, and memory.
The discussion begins with reference to a statement made in Levitin’s earlier publication, “This Is Your Brain On Music” (2006), which he goes on to state that “music is a better tool than language for arousing feelings and emotions.” Byrne adds to this statement by asserting that “music and visual arts bypass the filters that language seems to get caught up on, in emotionally affecting [us].”
At the heart of Levitin and Byrne’s argument is that language is a byproduct of human evolution, a side effect of something that predates written language—a instinctive form of communication, in this case, sound. Levitin calls on evolutionary psychology and neuroscience as a way to de-centralize human language to communication, by demonstrating that primitive structures, the ones we possess, are intrinsically connected from our brain to the sounds and vibrations of music, which implies that music can resonant within us an emotional response and feeling that language simply cannot. The idea here is that music conveys these projections selectively as opposed to language, which then suggests that music is evolutionary older than language. To Levitin and Byrne, music and sound should be adopted and represented as central to communication and human expression, as where language, should be a considered a close second.
As for future forms of music, sound and language, these things are determined by how communal they become. In the fuzziness of technology today and its bearings on future forms of communication, both Levitin and Byrne believe that privatization in new media is stripping away collective experiences for humanity, which hinders positive growth in the way we use and understand new forms of communication in the future.
I cannot help but get caught up on Levitin’s statement that “music is a better tool than language for arousing feelings and emotions.” In some ways, I can agree with Levitin, but still have a hard time accepting that language lacks the same capacity to arouse feelings and emotions. I may not be a musical theorist, or a neuroscientist, but I do seem to understand, as a listener of music, the fundamental understanding that when specific sounds are played in combination and rhythm with one another, these sounds like electricity have the ability to spark within us two sets of arousal: (1) visceral; and (2) noetic. The same applies in language. If I were to write out the word “rain” for instance, particular signifiers would trigger certain events or experiences or meanings tied to that word. This is a fundamental process in the way we understand and communicate with one another through language—through words and even the sounds that words create. Perhaps, music and sound are better at communicating particular emotions, in which case, language does prove to have a hard time communicating those emotions. For instance, lovemaking. Intimacy shared with another is one of those experiences that language has a difficult time expressing, unless of course you are Leo Tolstoy, but even if he could do it, the time in which it would take him to express those feelings would have not been summed up by one word but a thousand words. Often times, I believe we all at some point or another find ourselves in situations that call for a certain explanation or word, but we end up either (1) not knowing what those words are because they do not exist; (2) creating our own words and expressions; or (3) settling for words and phrases that are not enough to clearly express those experiences. As if those experiences are calling on a separate form of language, unknown to us, to express them. But they are not truly unknown to us. The fact that we sense that they exist, prove that these forms of expression are there, but have not been discovered or sought out. Today, however, that language does not exist, nor does it in music. In some way or another our true intuition and intentions and sentiments get lost along the way. Perhaps what needs to occur is not the perfecting of language, but the creation of an entirely new one, to challenge and push the limits of how we interact and communicate with one another—a missing piece to the way we were meant to communicate.
“Counterprint” by Karel Martens is a graphical piece which explores several of his graphic experiments done in relation to technology and language. What I found to be most interesting in this piece aside from the devoted technique and craft of Martens is Paul Elliman’s essay where he describes “the world as [being] a printed surface.” In a lot ways this notion of our environment being a printable surface is what ultimately keeps me excited about a blending of technology and language, which is quite the exalted motif in the work of Martens, Karl Nawrot, Radim Peško and Armand Mevis. But what does this statement ultimately mean, especially in a time simmering for departure—for digitization. If taken the wistful or rather the very dewy-eyed approach to Elliman’s statement, I guess it could mean that everything (tangible) along with its counterparts can be used as means (as a tool) to create language—to create expression, geometry, texture that can be reconfigured and reshaped to create new visual cues in language.
“The People’s Alphabet” (2006) done by Paul Elliman, is an example of this reconfiguration of the tangible—the perceived—where he uses photographs of people and their expressions (and non-expressions) to reassemble the alphabet, which as a result conveys a sort of bizarre cognizant to language even when a degree of abstraction is applied. Elliman like that of Martens used a lot of found bits and pieces, mainly industrial and mechanical bits found about in tool sheds, hardware stores, etc., that were then reassembled together to manipulate the geometry and improvisation of letter forms. “Bit Alfabet” (1999) is another example of Elliman’s that does this successful. What is most interesting here in this piece is the recycled use of tangible objects—the use of found bits in order to reshape and reassemble language in an unexpected way. This unexpectedness then begs at the more important question of language digitization. By allowing ourselves to view language differently outside our known understandings of language—the way we see, use and interact with language, we can begin to see outside the limits of language.
Paul Chan, a digital artist from Hong Kong, stumbled upon this same concept (coincidentally, I believe) in his piece titled “The Body of Oh Ho, Darlin” (2008), where he explores the reconfiguration of written language. Chan used the practice of reassigning letters of the alphabet to larger bits of information (e.g., sentences or phrases) to change the expectations of the message, which is a refreshing take on the way information can be misconstrued in a more analog way. It is quite fascinating to consider that the messages we write or any piece of written language for that matter (digital or analog) can act as a giant hole in the ground not meant to be filled with conceivable meaning but a sort of mystery of meaning (e.g., “I am” = a; “restrained as” = b; “a nurse” = c; etc.). These explorations in language bring up an interesting question: what are other forms of language that we can adopt, use and manipulate within our known, visible environments? For example, Melvin Moti’s stills from the film “The Prisoner’s Cinema” (2008), which are of pained glass windows in an old cathedral. The shapes themselves do not become recognizable until the sunlight shines through them, suggesting again this idea of embedded or layered language parsed through geometry and forms of the tangible, the mechanical, the industrial, the visual.
We have all seen them at some point or another whether through direct or indirect application of pattern making, through processes of offset printing, sound visualization, digital interference, fine-lined drawing, imaging, projection and light, natural environments, or the result of serendipitous outcome. Moiré patterns have been considered, and this is said without singularity, to be a common visual nuisance, “unwanted side-effects in printing processes, or an alienating effect in visual or audio analysis”(1). Today, however, these once referred nuisances have suddenly become visual phenomenon. Fuel for inspiration for designers like Carsten Nicolai, Karel Martens, Radim Peško, Karl Nawrot, Willem Van Weghel, Thomas Castro from LUST, and of course my own design work. Moiré patterns for much of its own history and understanding have been misinterpreted as misprints, visualized errors and so on.
Since its early recognition, often times identified throughout late maritime drawings of life at sea (during the 1800’s), a technique of overset lines were used to distinguish the foreground (a ships crew) to that of the background (the sky), which then would emit an optical effect known as the moiré pattern, this same visual technique since, has certainly become more popularized throughout the years. Today, it is often used as a metaphor for representing and embodying larger sets of information. The idea that beneath each layer of pattern withholds a certain body of data. Perhaps, its popularization is also its own descent, approached as a desire to achieve an effect rather than a desire to achieve a technique to the effect. What this means is that the information should create the effect, the effect should not create the information. In other words, these moiré patterns have the potential of containing many different forms of meaning, of actual data — an unveiling of information over time so to speak, the challenge, however, is getting to that realization.
In ancient principles of cryptography, for example, if I were to create a code, a cypher, the strength of my cypher only depends on the secrecy of my key (2). Now, if I reproduce this key and begin to distribute it widely about, the strength of my cypher begins to weaken, far too many have access to the key, therefore, jeopardizing the strength of the cypher. In this same way, we can argue that by simply creating an effect to create an effect is meaningless because it has no meaning; its container of information is lost from one translation to the next. Information held within these patterns either become hidden or do not exist at all, visual representations of nothingness. A question that I often have trouble in distinguishing, is how something visible can represent nothingness if its nothingness is represented by what we see — lines, grids, shapes, forms, etc., these elements make up the nothingness, therefore, there must be another set of meaning attached that is invisible — information, messages, etc., that are contained deep within, and with the right key, we can retain this data.
Several years ago, LUST, an interactive design studio lead by designer Thomas Castro, took part in a project titled, AT RANDOM? at the Museum De PavilJoens in Almere, Netherlands, in 2008. The exhibition looked at the creative process as an unpredictable, ever evolving event. Everyday, an enormous amount of information would constantly feed into the exhibition space, filtered through popular media: designers, artists, networks, curators, participants, etc., of the event, that later influenced the visual form of the information provided. Unexpected, were these moiré patterns generated by the collected data of the event, which translated visually into the number of posters printed per day (3). What this tells us is that moiré patterns, or visual patterns themselves have the potential to represent larger sets of information. Similar to the way QR Codes work in storing large amounts of data that can be parsed through pattern recognition technology. However, the relay of information in LUST’s moiré patterns is still lost and not entirely direct. Without understanding the exhibition and the types of information documented throughout the space, there is no distinct relationship between these visual patterns and the information they represent. Meaning gets lost through translation. The challenge here, is retaining this information visually without it being attached to its tangible data. For instance, if an individual set of lines or grids represent the first half of information, while the other set represents the second half, when joined together, can represent that piece of information as a whole. This then becomes compressed information, or compressed matrices, retained at high, dimensional rate.
In physics, moiré patterns is described as an interference of pattern, two similar or opposite sets of patterns that when overlaid at an angle create this visual interference. There are two common types of moiré patterns: (1) line moiré; and (2) shape moiré, or also known as band moiré. Each of these patterns represent different visual aesthetics and methods of creation and information expressed. Line moiré is the most common of patterns where two sets of parallel grids superpose each other to create the effect of movement between straight or curved lines. Often times, by contrasting these parallel lines, an effect known as “optical moiré speedup” would occur, where superimposing patterns (at a steady pace upward, downward, left to right, or diagonally) appear to be transforming at a much faster rate. Shape moiré is similar to Line moiré in that it calls on the same parallel grid structures superimposed to create an effect of movement; however, the movement created by Shape moiré patterns is a phenomenon called “moiré magnification.” “Moiré magnification” is when there are two types of superimposed pattern sets, (1) one-dimensional shape; and (2) a compressed sequence of shape along a vertical axis. When these two pattern sets are superimposed, the shape along the horizontal axis can restore the original proportions of the sequence of shapes on the vertical axis. In order words, the first layer of shape is compressed and unprocessed, when the second layer of shape moves across the first layer, the information compressed within that first layer is revealed. What is interesting about “moiré magnification” is that information can be successfully compressed and then decompressed through visual parsing, much like that of LUST’s moiré project that uses these patterns to reveal larger sets of information. But again, the challenge is not just creating visual representations of information, which LUST’s project does very well, but a successful transmission of this information from one place to the next.
1. Carsten Nicolai. “Moiré Index.” Gestalten. 2010. Print. 2. Simon Singh. “The Code Book.” New York: Anchor Books. 1999. Print. 3. Thomas Castro, LUST. “AT RANDOM?.” Museum De PavilJoens, Almere in the Netherlands. 2008. Exhibition
A: This project aims to develop systems of visceral communication, visual representations that draw purely on graphical elements — shape, form and pattern, as a way to generate an emotional response and feeling. This project will focus on the recognition of shapes and the representation of objects in relation to perception and conceptual meaning. It is with curiosity in existing projects and discussions in visual cognition, synthesis of language, pattern languages, imagery and perception, models of kinetic semiosis, and the science of language that I aim to discuss and formalize the development and assimilation of a visceral system of communication.
S: As we fall deeper into the indentations of hypermodernity, modifying and manipulating our every human experience — the way we speak, the way we absorb, interact and transmit information, and the way we communicate with one another — we are comparably influencing and controlling the way we perceive, use and mediate language. In Adam Bly’s Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science and Society, a discussion was conducted between Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, and David Byrne, a singer and songwriter, where Levitin emphatically claims that “music and sound are better tools than language for arousing feelings and emotions”(1). Byrne taking the same approach as Levitin, added to this statement by asserting that “music and visual art [bypass] the filters that language seems to get snagged on, in emotionally affecting you […] where as music seems to have straight access to the so-called reptile brain, and we feel it immediately.” What seems to be most intriguing about this discussion, is the evolution of language — this notion of emergence, this primordial instinct to want to communicate, to produce communicative systems of pattern (2) — a synthesis of language that can be applied and used to convey, understand and engineer expressions of emotion and feeling. Steven Pinker, a linguist and cognitive scientist, made the argument that even though music is pleasurable, it is still an evolutionary byproduct of something else, that something else being language (3). Levitin, however, disputes this claim by suggesting that within all “primitive structures that all reptiles have, that all vertebrates have, including humans, there are projections from the ear to the cerebellum and to the limbic system […]and these projections convey music almost selectively as opposed to language.” This would then suggest that language is possibly the byproduct of music. To Levitin and Byrne, music and sound are primary forms of communication, and possibly the future and evolution of communication, as where language is seen as secondary, or even further away then that if we were to discuss emotional responses to art and imagery. But what does all of this really mean in the context of developing visceral systems of language? The answer is everything. By investigating these types of discussions around what language is and what it is not, or what is capable or not capable of becoming, is how we can begin to imagine future forms and systems of communication. The interest in this topic does not lie in whether music is an adaptation of language or vice versa, nor does it lie in the histories of linguistic and etymology, instead, it aims to draw on and use found commonalities within these discussions as a way to develop the necessary tools and devices to which a new system of language can be created from. My aim in this project is to offer up an alternative position within the evolution of language. It is with curiosity that I wish to explore these so-called visceral languages, and how a language of its kind can incite an emotional response and experience the same way music is used to express things that are not currently expressible in language.
I plan to combine elements of story, namely fiction, graphic design and kinetic sculpture as a means to instigate and formalize the next evolutionary stages of communication through the develop of visceral language systems that rely purely on graphical elements of shape, pattern and form to generate an emotional response and feeling. The attempt is not to challenge the stability of existent language systems, nor offer an alternative to preexisting forms of communication. Instead, my focus in this investigation will remain speculative in nature, for reasons that will potential led me through an intuitive process of making as a primary means to discover and examine the discrepancies and relationships between visual representations, their meanings and the emotion they generate through motion.
Ultra Semaphore was a project that I did in Spring 2011, that explored earlier stages of Kinetic Semiosis (4), where the creation of these visual responses relied on overlapping graphical patterns that were set in motion to form unique visual vocabularies that could then be used to formalize visual systems of meaning. The project became more than just an exploration of compressed communication or a reduction of information, but rather a more imagined relationship between reader and transcriber that questioned whether or not a language system built solely on emotional response can exist.
I plan to use fiction writing as way to imagine the worlds in which these language devices live and as a way to bring a realization to this subjects findings. Whether that story be about a language device attempting to communicate with other dimensions outside our own, or a story about a man who constructs a language tower in hopes of finding his lost love. I would like for these stories to become realized, to be placed within our known realities, to begin as fiction but to become fact. The idea is to create a fictional history, to set the stage for a possible myth that carries with it the potential of outliving its own disbelief.
1. Adam Bly. “Science is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science and Society.” New York: Harper Perennial. 2010. Print.
2. Steven Pinker. “The Language of Instinct.” New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1994. Print.
3. Christopher Alexander. “Notes on the Synthesis of Form.” Boston: Harvard University Press. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1974. Print.
4. Kinetic Semiosis refers to the study of visual language in motion. Its primary focus is situated on the aesthetics and the meanings derived through the combination of motion and visual patterns.