The new media installation "Code Talk"  shows a 93 year old man, positioned in the middle of  a large server storage center. He was one of 29 original Navajo Code Talkers who worked on the development of a language code, here to be seen on video pronouncing the letters A to Z in Navajo Code. The video´s audio-track can be heard exclusively via a lasermicrophone sculpture built by the artist, that transmits sound over long distances. Based on the tribal language of the Navajos, this code was commissioned by the U.S. military, to be deployed in the South Pacific during World War II. Taking national security as a central theme, this installation shows different perspectives on codification, positioning them closely next to each other.   The video material was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

Die Arbeit mit dem Titel Code Talk besteht aus einer Videosequenz, deren Audiospur mittels einer von der Kunstlerin entwickelten und selbst gebauten Apparatur hörbar gemacht wird. Stumreich bezieht sich dabei auf
einen vom US-Militär im Zweiten Weltkrieg fur den Einsatz im Sudpazifik in Auftrag gegebenen und auf der Stammessprache der Navajos basierenden Verschlusselungscode. Das Video zeigt den zum Zeitpunkt der Aufnahme letzten noch lebenden Entwickler dieses Codes, der die Lautfolgen für die Buchstaben A bis Z vor laufender Kamera der Reihe nach aus dem Gedächtnis spricht. Ein gerichteter Laserstrahl überträgt die schallwellenbedingte Vibration einer Glasscheibe auf lichtsensible Zellen, wodurch die Verstärkung und anschließende Re-Codierung der Sprachlaute ermöglicht wird. Diese Laserabhöreinrichtung illustriert auf eindringliche Weise das intrusive Potential und die (un)heimliche Allgegenwart technologischer Dispositive, die zur Transmutation, Archivierung und weiteren Verwendung jedweder Kommunikation eingesetzt werden. Während in diesem Fall die ursprungliche Codierung sprachimmanent ist, greift die Abhöreinrichtung
mittelbar auf die verschlüsselte Information zu, um sie mit dem „Sound“ der neuesten Technologie über den Zeitsprung des reproduzierten Sprechakts und seiner Decodierung in die Gegenwart zu bringen.

 

The work entitled Code Talk shows a video sequence whose audio track can be heard exclusively via a selfbuilt lasermicrophone. Kathrin Stumreich makes reference to an encrypted code commissioned by the US military in the Second World War to be used in the South Pacific and based on the tribal language of the Navajos.
The video shows one of the original 29 navajo men who developed this code. Positioning him in front of a large server storage the artist juxtaposes different ways of  information storage,  as supercomputers and their algorithms with the power to make use of  code,  whereas in former times it was the human memory where code was received by oral transmission of  language and became useful by the capacity of remembering. The 93 year old man, Chester Nez,  recites by heart the sound sequence for the letters from A to Z, the Navajo Code Alphabeth. His reciting represents the Native Americans and their contributions (amongst Navajos also other northern american tribes did), but also the treasure of an oral inherited culture in this case its aspect of language, at that time not to be found in libraries, and therefore not to be decoded. In this artwork we perceive the language code via light transmission. The man´s  indian name "Ptole" means " the light reflection" in Navajo and  became a seminal metaphor for  this project that origined in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His reciting causes sound waves towards a pane of glass. A laser beam reflects on that glass pane and from there on it is carrier of these sound waves that are directed to a lightsensitive cell. It becomes amplified and visitors can listen to the code.
Stumreich´s  research in media-archeology for  the lasermicrophone device goes back to the 19th century when light was used to transfer information in Graham Bell´s photophone, later also used by Leon Theremin who won the Stalin prize for inventing this advance for the Soviet espionage technology. The laser device Stumreich has built for code talk is a striking illustration of the way the intrusive potential and the secret and discomforting universal presence of technological dispositives, used to transmute, archive, and further use of any kind of communication. While the original coding is in this case intrinsic to language, the listening device goes straight to the coded information  in order to bring it into the present with the sound of the latest technology across the time-leap of the reproduced speech act and its decoding.