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Sprache Sehen, 1996-1998
[ Seeing Language, 1996-1998 ]

Computer-controlled interactive light installation
Polytechnic school Bregenz (AT), extension Baumschlager/Eberle, competition, realization 1996–8

12 light sticks with 64 LEDs each, microprocessors, eproms, control computer, terminal for direct input

Text content and language consulting: Veronika Schnell
project assistant: Martin Kusch
electronics: Alexander Pausch


In each of the three staircases of the new building of the HTL [polytechnic school] Bregenz, a light stick with red LEDs is installed in each of the four floors. From a word catalogue with 600 terms, 3 programmed "phrase machines", each assigned to a staircase, receive grammatically correct combinations of four words per day through random generation. The word catalogue contains keywords that exemplify the topic of fragmentation and re-composition of reality. It is created analogously to a language canon.

The 12 sticks generate a text that becomes perceptible to the observer only when she/he is in motion. The inertia of the retina is responsible for the sequences of words that seem to appear in the surrunding space – a meaningless "sign" suddenly becomes "language".

Using a computer terminal installed in the library, students can rewrite the text of one of the light sticks. Over time these "electronic graffitis" change the original text.

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Der provozierende Einbruch des abweichend Neuen in den trauten Schoß des Geregelten wird aber so kaum gespielt. Paradoxerweise wird diese Absicht überwiegend unabsichtlich realisiert. Gerade das Unterschreiten der Grenzgeschwindigkeit zur vollständigen Worterkennung erzeugt laufend Unsinniges, mitunter zufällig Obszönes, dadaistisches Wortgestammel. Nicht grenzüberschreitende kreative Spracherweiterung ereignet sich, sondern Unterschreitung der Wortgrenzen, Wortzerfall in Buchstaben, Auflösung des Sprachcodes. Die Kommunikation läuft, "wenn es nicht läuft." Sprache sehen in ihrem Scheitern. Tieferes, Grundlegenderes erblicken. Darin zeigen, was dem Kunstwerk eigen, worauf es verweist, was es symbolisiert.

Erich Troy, in: Neubau Kunst Technik