Curatorial Projects > In Other Words (2012)

Alex Potts
I Understand, 2012
Wax, speakers, paper metal, software
Natural language programming by Drew Mason

Visitors were invited to speak a word or short phrase into the cone mounted on the wall, which was then translated across the suspended speakers mounted around the staircase.

“I Understand is like a game of digital telephone, though its translation is not based on the sound of the spoken word, but rather its meaning. It will listen to words and phrases from participating viewers, look up associated words, definitions, and matching phrases from selected (public domain) literature, then play back these associations via synthetic voices across a speaker array. This iterative process continues, getting further and further away from the original meaning while the sound of the voices is gradually obscured as well until new input is received. The suspended speakers are encased in waxed pages of the literature that the software program draws from for its associations.

If I could articulate a goal with the project, it would be to create a playful sound sculpture that gives the audience an active way of reflecting upon the precarious nature of language's ability to both communicate and obfuscate meaning. Secondarily, as we come to a point where technology offers a viable interface between spoken word and machine, I was interested in exploring what happens when you subvert the common commercial uses of voice commands and focus instead on creating more surprising interactions.” – Alex Potts

In Other Words

February 1 - March 24, 2012
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Photo credit: Scott Chernis