Listening Post: “I am” by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin

Every word and phrase we write in a message, a comment, a response to smth. is a special code of 1 and 0 which is invisible and soundless gliding across the expanses of the World Wide Web.

Today the sound of a new message in social networks and the image of the comment on the laptop interface is a common thing. But artist and designer Mark Hansen and statistician Ben Rubin have decided to show us the way the online conversation among people all over the world looks and sounds like.

The Listening Post installation consists of two hundred small electronic screens. A plenty of messages simultaneously appear on the screens. And a voice synthesizer speaks out loud what the message says. The installation is dedicated to the virtual conversation which unites people all over the world. This conversation is a sort of infinite process since when two people stop talking, other two have just started. Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin have made a great research on the messages people share in the Internet chat rooms and public forums. And the Listening Post is their response to content, magnitude and immediacy of virtual communication.

I am

There is a wide range of messages appearing on screens. Most of them start with common words “I am”, “I am from…” But each of them contains a story which is to be told further. Everybody has a plenty of stories which has been happening during their lifetime, and each story beginning can remind something to someone, can convert to particular memories. Thus, the viewer is connected to the process that is going on in front of his eyes, and via this connection the sense of the need to communicate with people, to be united with them emerges.

The net of screens is constructed as a semicircle in a dark room. It has an effect that a viewer is being covered by the Internet. (S)he is surrounded by digital screens, words shown in pixels, “robotized” sounds. The viewer is put into the Net, (s)he is a witness of information which is flowing through the digital channels, at the same time the viewer is a witness of someone’s talk. The viewer is put inside this digital world of information.

At the same time, there is one more meaning and, may be, a question. Everyone who is a part of the conversation speaks nowadays in silence. Synthesizer is a machine. We have voice but nowadays it is either soundless or totally the same “robotized”, non-individual. Are we like these screen boxes shaping the net of “I am” soundless messages? May be, so, and there may emerge another question of our computer and Internet addiction. We can discuss this issue as well, but at the same time, we can’t but focus that to every question we ask or a statement we claim we wait for an answer. And this Listening Post is Hansen and Rubin’s response to every thought we share.

Nastasia Rozhkova

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