StoryRooms at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

Paul DeMarinis
The Messenger



The Messenger is an Internet driven installation based on early proposals for the electrical telegraph, in particular those made by the Catalan scientist Francisco Salvá. It examines the metaphors encoded within technology, especially lost or orphaned technologies and tries to trace their origins, speculating on the way that mechanisms are the repositories of larger unspoken conceptions and dreams. It takes the telegraph as a point of departure from which to examine the relationship between electricity and democracy, and how electrical telecommunication technologies have participated in our solidarity and in our isolation, in our equality and our oppression, in the richness of our experience and the uncertainty of our lives.

Email messages sent from around the world are received by a computer and spelled out, one letter at a time over three fanciful telegraph receivers: A circular array of 26 talking chamber pots speaks out the letters in 26 different voices. Men, women, schoolchildren and aged pensioners are jarred into vocalization when their individual letter is activated. The watery resonance of the metal bowls creates a unique reverb for each voice, disconnecting it from the other voices and from the acoustic space of the gallery. Another receiver is made up of a chorus line of 26 little dancing skeletons. Each wears a tiny poncho emblazoned with a letter of the alphabet. When each letter of a message is activated, the skeleton jumps, producing a danse macabre as the email messages roll off the Internet. The third telegraphic receiver is a line of 26 antique glass jars, each filled with an electrolyte and holding a pair of metal electrodes, one of them shaped like a letter of the alphabet. The electrical currents cause the electrodes to change from shiny metallic to black alternately and to produce hydrogen bubbles. Nowhere does the system possess any memory or understanding of the messages displayed. Unless the signals are observed, written down and interpreted, the installation is the final meaningless terminus for messages that have travelled around the world and died, referring to the lost or meaningless message has become so frequent an experience in our daily life.



Background information

Paul DeMarinis has been working as a multimedia electronic artist since 1971 and has created numerous performance works, sound and computer installations and interactive electronic inventions. He has performed internationally, at The Kitchen N.Y., Festival d'Automne a Paris, Het Apollohuis in Holland, Ars Electronica in Linz. He created music for the Merce Cunningham Dance Co. His interactive audio artworks have been shown at the I.C.C. in Tokyo, Bravin Post Lee Gallery in New York and The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at The Exploratorium, San Francisco, and at Xerox PARC and has received fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, N.Y.F.A., N.Y.S.C.A. and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Much of his work involves speech processed and synthesized by computers, available on the Lovely Music Ltd. CD "Music as a Second Language", and the Apollohuis CD "A Listener's Companion". Public artworks include large-scale interactive installations at Park Tower Hall in Tokyo, the Olympics in Atlanta and the WorldExpo in Lisbon.

Susan Collins
Paul Demarinis
Ken Goldberg
Paul Sermon
Cornelia Sollfrank
Tan Teck Weng
Andrea Zapp