'THE LISTENING POST' BY MARK HANSEN & BEN RUBIN, SCIENCE MUSEUM
Thursday, 2 May 2013
I hadn't been to the Science Museum for a long time until I visited it a couple of months ago, and even then we didn't get a proper look around. Recently I went back with my friend Matt to re live our childhood memories of playing with experiments (though unfortunately we'd forgotten how expensive the simulators are - not great for student budgets. Oh to have parents to pay for these things, like when we were kids!). Our first stop was accidental, but was one of the best parts of the trip - the artwork 'Listening Post' by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin. Computers go through chatrooms, indiscriminately picking up words and phrases that people send, as they send them, and rhythmically displaying them on a huge system of LED screens, flashing the messages that strangers across the worlds are writing to each other. Of course, with data taken from chatrooms and no censoring system, it can be a surprising, shocking or funny experience depending on who's talking when you view the piece. It's incredibly mesmerising, sitting in a dark room with words flashing out at you as they are read in a computer generated voice, and after sitting through two and a half cycles of the patterns we had to force ourselves to leave in order to be able to see at least some of the rest of the museum. It's an amazing piece, described as a 'monument to the present'. If you want to find out more about the piece there's a good curatorial statement on the Science Museum's website which goes into a lot more detail about the piece and the concept which I'd recommend. The pictures above are ones I took whilst watching - I thought the first one was particularly appropriate.