Walls Have Ears

Jason Reizner

The recent onslaught of QRQuick Response Code - zweidimensionaler (Bar-)Code (Software in vielen mobilen Endgeräten mit Kamera enthalten) technology has meant that the occurrence of visual signifiers which only machines can read and write is becoming increasingly commonplace in areas once solely the realm of the human-readable. Walls Have Ears is a generative installation that gently prods this brave new world of synthetic literacy by also engendering the machine with the ability to listen. Over the duration of Generative Art 2011 in Rome, the machine was continuously overhearing human presenters’ speech direct from the lectern.

This environment exploits the highly subjective nature of realtime artificial speech-to-text transcription to distill a dynamic, if not somewhat idiosyncratic, living document of the proceedings. Displayed on a subtle wall-sized QRQuick Response Code - zweidimensionaler (Bar-)Code (Software in vielen mobilen Endgeräten mit Kamera enthalten) video assemblage in an adjacent exhibition, the system's understanding of what is happening is both a compelling visual abstraction, as well as a reasonably faithful account, provided, of course, one has a machine that will graciously serve as an interpreter.

In much the same manner humans acquire a foreign spoken language, the most talented artificial speech-to-text transcription relies heavily on situated cognition, and as such, also exhibits the peculiar tendency to hear something other than what was actually said. Interpolating rhythm, cadence and context, the machine builds its own account of what has transpired, and leaves behind a document that is as elastic, disjointed and poetic as any narrative penned by a mere person.

Functional Overview
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Exhibition Setup, Galeria Angelica
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Eavesdropping Server, Proceedings of GA2011 Conference
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Improvised Footswitch Trigger
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Installation Hardware, Exhibition Vernissage, Galeria Angelica
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Installation Output, Exhibition Vernissage, Galeria Angelica
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Selected Quotes

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