“We still do not know how much less ‘nothing’ can be. Has an ultimate zero point been arrived at with black paintings, white paintings, light beams, transparent film, silent concerts, invisible sculpture . . . ? It hardly seems likely.”
—Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler, Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, 1999
“There are trends, or eras, in language invention that reflect the preoccupations of the surrounding culture, and so, in a way, the history of invented languages is a story about the way we think about language.”
—Arika Okrent, In the Land of Invented Languages, 2009
Digging around the history of language invention, one soon begins to see patterns emerge. A frustration with the limitations and inconsistencies of natural language coupled with an ambition and zeal to create something better usually results in a marvelous body of work that never generates a critical mass of users. From John Wilkins’s 1668 An Essay Toward a Real Character and a Philosophical Language through Charles Bliss’s 1949 Semantography, the effort to develop a logical, unifying system tends to run counter to the very nature of living language, with all its inconsistencies and adaptations. Learning from this rich history of utopian language projects, my own interest in a language of higher consciousness has been reoriented.
Light, Sound, Text has, from the beginning, been about the exploration of contemplative states in physical space. Architecture is a medium through which experience is constructed and I’m interested in the platform of language’s relationship to the built environment. How can language be—literally as well as metaphorically—encoded into a space? Moreover, is it possible to cultivate mindfulness and beauty within such a site? One node of this question leads me to back through the history of telecommunication and its electronic manifestation.
Samuel Morse, son of a geographer and pastor, was an accomplished painter from Massachusetts. In 1825, his wife fell ill when he was working on a commission in New York City. By the time the message reached him and he could return home to her, she had already died. Morse set to work on a system of rapid communication for long distances that resulted in the binary code still employed today. What interests me about Morse code, aside from its historical significance to telecommunications, is its suitability to the media of sound and light. There is an experiential aspect to these that can eclipse the message they convey. One’s ability to receive a message encoded in sound or light is contingent on an awareness of the patterns they produce. It’s this boundary between ambience and legibility that seems to have some potential for my project.
Dan Flavin’s work is an interesting precedent in the material realization of light in space. His use of industrial, fluorescent light tubes raise their cold utility to a level of the transcendent. To correlate patterns and signals through these, augmented with sound that fills the space is the current trajectory of my efforts. I’d like to gather people in such a space to lift their minds, and lose themselves in a contemplative/meditative act.