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mumcode

with robert baker sheffield 2001

The work is based upon the experiences of my friend's mum ' mrs baker'. Robert's mum was diagnosed as schizophrenic. One of the ways this 'illness' manifested itself was through a series of codes that would appear 'as if by magic' on mrs baker's television. These codes were derived from a simple set of markings and would permutate to form various symmetrical patterns. The codes would form basic 'machine level' instructions which Mrs Baker would then mechanically carry out.

Eg:

1 8 8 8 1
2 3 3 3 2
1 3 3 3 1

We decided to set about writing some software to replicate this process. The software generated a series of permutations and for each symbol a simple sound was added. The software could either animate the characters or print out a list of permutations. An installation was devised with the characters projected onto a rotating mirror using a video projector. The reflection was cast behind large windows.

This work develops earlier ideas developed with Robert primarily in sound works. These works address the notion of hidden codes that are implicit in both machine, organic, digital and linguistic processes (see the audio work ngoma). This theme has a popular expression in the German film 'Decoder'. Here an activist uncovers a hidden code embedded in supermarket music. This code is taken and reversed and results in anarchistic and revolutionary behaviour. Another notable example can be found in a hammer horror film, where Roy Castle transcribes ritual music and then plays this on his trumpet in a night-club with horrific results!

In such works there is the assumption that technology is designed with a purpose in mind, and that ultimately we can use technology in one of two ways. Firstly in an almost 'passive' manner, the way that is prescribed by the design team. Secondly in an active matter that is contrary to the originally conceived purpose of the machine. The second function acts as a means of enlarging the logical space within which future events and actions may take place. In a sense it is a process of freeing a system or machine of its purpose. The work explores this interest in the active and passive ways in which we engage with technology. But more importantly it draws attention to the point where this distinction becomes problematic.

here's an example of the printout

http://www.markfell.com/b/mumcode.html




© mark fell, modified January 07, 2009, at 03:26 PM edit print