In Emily’s second post, find out about one of her favourite art pieces in the Science Museum
Sitting there, watching Listening Post, I was strangely mesmerised. The computer synthesised voices read out posts in different, monotonic keys, creating a calm chorus of gentle noise. I was completely hypnotised and probably could have sat there for hours…
Created by artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, Listening Post is an art project which came to the museum in 2003. It displays small sections of live conversations from public internet chat rooms or bulletins. All the information is uncensored and picked up randomly from English sites so it could be anything. There are seven ‘scenes’ which do various displays on 200 tiny screens. Sounds from the real electronic world are also simulated like clattering of typing, the tone from an answering machine, and in some scenes, a calm, simple musical soundtrack will accompany.
My favourite scene was one where the computer voices read out single lines from a conversation, each one displayed on a new screen, eventually filling the entire display, each sentence designated to a screen on a constant loop. It was a pattern of sentences beginning with ‘I am…’ I was surprised at how much I smiled when the synthesised voice read out ‘I am happy,’ and I suppose I was touched at how someone, somewhere was happy. Along with this, there were some loops which had some rather amusing content and I was forced to hide my chuckle because the whole space was silent aside from the light clattering of changing text and the drone of the electronic voice.
The other scenes had different displays. One read out whole paragraphs of conversation, layering them and creating a harmonised symphony of undecipherable words. It was interesting to see that different ways people used networking. Meeting new people, talking to old friends. It made me feel small and insignificant, that these sections of text and words were only a miniscule fragment of what was out there on the internet at the present time. It also made me more aware that what I might be posting on the internet isn’t private and that it will remain there forever, imprinted on the walls of the World Wide Web.