Hearing Things

Description of "Hearing Things (The Oracle)," published in "The Art of the Accident," 1998.

HEARING THINGS (The Oracle) is an installation and performance that explores the creation, capture, transformation and disintegration of language.

In Greek antiquity, an Oracle - such as the one at Delphi - would be founded on the site where a vaporous subterranean spring emanates from the earth. The medium of the Pythia would receive 'oracles' from the Gods in the form of non-verbal, frenzied gibberish and incoherent disclaimings. These oracles would be verbally interpreted to give guidance on matters of the day.

In the space of Williamson's installation, an electronic Oracle - based on computer speech recognition software that receives signals from microphones in the space - recognises and (mis)interprets any sound or voices as speech, translating them into a continuous stream of text. A vaporous spring emanates from a raised platform onto which visitors are lured by an inviting, overhead microphone. The visitors may trigger nonsensical and creative mishearings, stimulating the Oracle to produce unexpected accidental phrases out of the unknowing computer set-up. The results, which are then projected onto a large glass screen suspended over the platform, are both amusing and curiously affecting as the computer endlessly generates phrases and statements, desperately trying to make sense of the most inauspicious stimulation.

The computer lacks the necessary ability to differentiate between sounds and spoken language, and is hardly equipped for its attempts at verbalisation. Despite its inability to enter into a real dialogue, or even a mirrored monologue with the visitors, they may start to 'consult' the Oracle by asking questions and investigating the replies.

At certain times, Aaron Williamson comes into the installation space and fuels the Oracle - the text output of the computer - through his extraordinary and unnerving physical performance work. Williamson is profoundly deaf and has, over past ten years, developed a strong physical approach to realising text through wordless, visceral vocalising and body-heavy movements. The unhearing, yet understanding performance artist makes himself the voice, the Pythia of the hearing, yet completely in-cognizant, muttering sound-to-text translation.

Similarly, if visitors follow their own sounds, verbal comments and questions through different stages of machinic translation and transmutation, and from one field of limited expression to the next, they may discover the poetic richness of accidental interpretation and transgressive expression of the Oracle.

Hearing Things is a co-production between shinkansen (London), DEAF 98 (Rotterdam) and Hull Time Based Arts (Hull) for TOOT 99 in association with South London Gallery. Financial assistance from the Arts Council of England.


Document Actions
Mailinglist: Subscribe to the English or Dutch version.

Follow usfacebook_16.png twitter_16.png youtube_16.png Favicon Vimeo googleplus
Related Items
DEAF98 - The Art of the Accident Programme Booklet

Programme booklet of the 1998 Dutch Electronic Art Festival.

Hearing Things

'Hearing Things' (1998) by Aaron Williamson is an installation-performance, an electronic oracle, ...

DEAF98 Exhibition Nov 17, 1998 11:00 AM

The DEAF98 exhibition was entitled" The Art of the Accident".

The Art of the Accident

Collection of essays stating that the concept of “accident” contains not just the idea that ...

DEAF98 - The Art of the Accident Nov 17, 1998

DEAF98 Dutch Electronic Art Festival - The Art of the Accident

The Unreliable DEAF98 Website

Description of the experimental Unreliable DEAF98 website, published in "The Art of the Accident," ...

Introduction to Wild Things (Blow-up reader)

Introduction to the e-pub Wild Things by Michelle Kasprzak (2011).

DEAF98 Symposium Nov 19, 1998 10:00 AM

Symposium of DEAF98 about "The Art of the Accident".

BitPlane and other BIT Products

Catalogue description of the work "BitPlane" of the Bureau of Inverse Technology, published in "The ...

Masaki Fujihata

Masaki Fujihata (JP) is one of the pioneers of Japanese new media art.

Mutant Data Orchestra

Description of the "Mutant Data Orchestra," published in "The Art of the Accident," 1998

World, Membrane and the Dismembered Body

"World, Membrane and the Dismembered Body" (1998) is an installation by Seiko Mikami.


DasArts is a post-academic "think-and-do" tank for the performing arts based in Amsterdam.

IC You Watch

"IC You Watch" (1989-1990) is an interactive installation by Ivo van Stiphout.

ASA: Access All Accidents

Short article on the "Association for Strategic Accidents," by Ed van Megen, published in "The Art ...

Wiretap 4.11 - The Art of the Accident Nov 22, 1998 02:00 PM

This month the Wiretap was dedicated to the theme of the festival: 'The Art of the Accident'. It ...

more ...
Personal tools
Log in