This project is a three-screen video installations that combines scientific research with fiction writings and video montage. The three videos below should be viewed horizontally side by side, and played simultaneously.
The project started from a research inquiry on language acquisition at early age, the starting question was: why does the language acquisition skill seems to decay with age?
In the first book of Speech and Language published in 1979, Doctor Patricia Kuhl illuminated my question from a perceptual standpoint. Infants are more capable of distinguish different sounds in speech, they are better at speech perception, and this ability to discern subtle sound differences of different words decrease with age, and repeated practice of using the same language. With this information, I started experimenting on myself to test a crazy hypothesis: Can I set up a feedback loop in my brain to learn new language as an infant?
The experiment went on for two months, in which everyday I wear headphone and microphone connected to a speech synthesizer I made to hear my own voice as baby sound. I used this interface to learn Dutch speech. This process was incorporated into a three screen video installation. Sadly I lost all the documentation photos due to a backup and computer loss, here presented the original video and script as archive.
If this is about a girl’s incessant quest for an exile.
An exile into the boundless possibilities of a tomorrow.
Such quest burns into her soul an illuminating fire.
A feverish desire that extends from infancy till adolescence.
To exile, from what? You may ask.
“The ground! Of course.” Murmurs her.
Of course! The place-bounding, color-fading, mountain shape of a memory hunchback.
Things to run away from
“From where to start? It goes back to infinity.”
She stomps her feet on the floor twice. heavily.
As if she is trying to shake off the gravity powder
that accidentally coated her whole body.
Chap. 1 The Birth Of Stars As A Metaphor
1634 Johannes Kepler’s “Somnium” was published by his son, Ludwig Kepler.
Originally written in 1608, the title means “The Dream” in Latin. Its imaginative picture illustrates the first serious scientific treatise on lunar astronomy. An Icelandic boy and his mother—who is a witch learn from a daemon the island of Levania—moon. Thus marks the first and eternal ideological destination of this quest. “The island of Levania is located fifty thousand German miles high up in the sky. The route to get to there from here, or back to this Earth, is rarely open. When it is open, it is easy for our kind, at least, to travel. But transporting humans is truly difficult, and risks the greatest dangers to life. We do not admit desk-bound humans into these ranks, nor the fat, nor the foppish. But we choose those who regularly spend their time hunting with swift horses, or those who voyage in ships to the Indies, and are accustomed to living on hard bread, garlic, dried fish and other abhorrent foods. The best adapted for the journey are dried-out old women, since from youth they are accustomed to riding goats at night, or pitchforks, or travelling the wide expanses of the earth in worn-out clothes. There are none in Germany who are suitable, but the dry bodies of Spaniards are not rejected.” “The whole journey, although far, is completed in a time of four hours at the most. Never are we more busy than just before the time determined for out departure, when the eastern side of the moon begins to be eclipsed. For if the moon regains its full light while we are embarked upon the journey, it prevents our departure back to the moon. This occasion proves so narrow that we take few of the human race along, and none except the students of our order. Therefore: any person of this kind we all seize together, pushing upwards to raise him high. First of all he experiences a strong pressure, not unlike an explosion of gunpowder, as he is hurled above the mountains and the seas. For this reason, drugs and opium are consumed at the start, so that he falls asleep, and each of his limbs disentangled, so that his body is not torn from his legs, nor his head driven from his body, but so the shock will be distributed across all his limbs. Next he experiences new difficulties: it is intensely cold and he cannot breath. All of us are born with a power to relieve the cold; for his breathing, we push damp sponges up his nose to block the flow.” Aboard, この宇宙を抱いて輝く.少年よ,神話になれ! Set, forever upwards endless gazing. To, abyss encircles warm fabric of the universe Gravity.
1865 Jules Verne’s “De la Terre à la Lune”
1870 Jules Verne’s “Antour de la Lune”
1902 Georges Méliès’ “Le Voyage dans la Lune” 260 meters, silent film
Upon first release, the work was a big hit. Preciously retrived and restored in 2011, the original hand-colored print that was lost since Méliès’ retirement from the film industry. The disrupted surface, masked idea destination. ripen, spotless fantasy. Perhaps prophecy. To throw, to pull. Dance, the play of power. Gravity.
1956 Arthur C. Clarke’s “The City and the Stars”
A complete rewrite of Clarke’s first novel “Against the Fall of Night”, “The City and the Stars” was intended to demonstrate his learning in writing and information processing. Staged one billion years in the future, all the ocean on the Earth have dried out and most humanity has left their home planet, except the only city—Diaspar. The entire city is enclosed and everybody lives with a fear of leaving the city because of ancient cosmic agreement that was made with another race on another planet. Alvin, the main character, is the only person that doesn’t have a past “live” that everybody else in this city each has several. And, instead of that deep coded fear of leaving, he feels compelled to venture outside of the city. “Perhaps no other form of life could have kept faith so long to a creed otherwise forgotten for a thousand million years. In a sense, the great polyp was a helpless victim of its biological nature. Because of its immortality, it could not change, but was forced to repeat eternally the same invariant pattern.” “Alvin was an explorer, and all explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.” “He did not wander aimlessly, though he never knew which village would be his next port of call. He was seeking no particular place, but a mood, an influence—indeed, a way of life.” “They had forgotten much, but they did not know it. They were as perfectly fitted to their environment as it was to them—for both had been designed together. What was beyond the walls of the city was no concern of theirs; it was something that had been shut out of their minds. Diaspar was all that existed, all that they needed, all that they could imagine. It mattered nothing to them that Man had once possessed the stars.” Crackling, sprinkle, twinkling stars. scattered, fallen, a palm of holds. To draw close, lace through. Gravity.
1965 Italo Calvino’s “Le Cosmicomiche”
A collection of twelve short stories, “Cosmicomics” builds imaginary stories on top of scientific notions(sometimes misunderstandings compare to today’s understanding). “The spot where the Moon was lowest, as she went by, was off the Zind Cliffs. We used to go out with those little rowing boats they had in those days, round and flat, made of cork… On those nights, the water was very calm, so silvery it looked like mercury, and the fish in it, violet-coloured, unable to resist the Moon’s attraction, rose to the surface, all of them, and so did the octopuses and the saffron medusas. There was always a flight of tiny creatures—little crabs, squid, and even some weeds, light and filmy, and coral plants—that broke from the sea and ended up on the Moon, hanging down from that lime-white ceiling, or else they stayed in midair, a phosphorescent swarm we had to drive off, waving banana leaves at them. This is how we did the job: in the boat we had a ladder:one of us held it, another climbed to the top, and a third, at the oars, rowed until we were right under the Moon;… The man at the top of the ladder, as the boat approached the Moon, would become scared and start shouting: ‘Stop! Stop! I’m going to bang my head!’ That was the impression you had, seeing her on top of you, immense, and all rough with sharp spikes and jagged, saw-tooth edges.” Lost time, when we were once at our closest to you. Moon, away and away you go. Bound down here, we. Gravity.
Chap.2 Language as a betryal to the urge for exile
“Self-discovery is above all the realization that we are alone: it is the opening of an impalpable, transparent wall—that of our consciousness—between the world and ourselves.” “The adolescent, however, vacillates between infancy and youth, halting for a moment before the infinite richness of the world.” “Every written work can be reagarded as the prologue(or rather, the broken cast) of a work never penned, and destined to remain so, because later works, which in turn will be prologues or the moulds for other absent works, represent only sketches or death masks. The absent work, although it is unplaceable in any precise chronology, thereby constitutes the written works as prolegomena or paralipomena of a non-existent text; or, in a more general sense, as parerga which find their true meaning only in the context of an illegible ergon. “ “Is there a human voice, a voice that is the voice of man as the chirp is the voice of the cricket or the bray is the voice of the donkey? And, if it exists, is this voice language? What is the relationship between voice and language, between phōnē and logos? And if such a thing as a human voice does not exist, in what sense can man still be defined as the living being which has language? The questions thus formulated mark off a philosophical interrogation. In the tradition of the ancients, the question of the voice was a cardinal philosophical question. De voics nemo magis quam philosophi tractant, we read in Servius, and for the Stoics, who gave the decisive impulse to Western thinking on language, the voice was the arkhē of the dialectic. Yet philosophy has hardly ever posed the question of the voice as an issue…” “It is significant that the author should have arrived at his inquiry into the human voice(or its absence) precisely through a reflection on infancy. In-fancy, which is this book’s subject, is not a simple given whose chronological site might be isolated, nor is it like an age or a psychosomatic state which a psychology or a palaeoanthropology could construct as a human fact independent of language. If every thought can be classified according to the way in which it articulates the question of the limits of language, the concept of infancy is then an attempt to think through these limits in a direction other than that of the vulgarly ineffable. The ineffable, the un-said, are in fact categories which belong exclusively to human language; far from indicating a limit of language, they express its invincible power of presupposition, the unsayable being precisely what language must presuppose in order to signify. the concept of infancy, on the contrary, is accessible only to a thought which has been purified, in the words of Benjamin writing to Buber, ‘by eliminating the unsayable from language’. The singularity which language must signify is not something ineffable but something superlatively sayable: the thing of language.” “It is clear, therefore, that for a being whose experience of language was not always split into language and speech—in other words, a primordially speaking being, primordially within an undivided language—there would be no knowledge, no infancy, no history: he would already be directly one with his linguistic nature and would nowhere find any discontinuity or difference where any history or knowledge might be produced.”
Barbara L.Davis, Peter F.MacNeilage “The Articulatory Basis of Babbling”, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1995, Vol. 38, 1199-1211. doi:10.1044/jshr.3806.1199
Karin Holmgren, Björn Lindblom, Göran Aurelius, Birgitta Jailing, Rolf Zetterström, “On the Phonetics of Infant Vocalization”, Wenner-Gren Center International Symposium series, 51-63, DOI:10.1007/978-1-349-08023-6_5
Patricia K.Kuhl, “The Perception of Speech in Early Infancy”, Speech and Langauge, Advances in Basic Research and Practice, vol. 1. 1979, 1-41
Hartmut Rothga ̈nger, “Analysis of the sounds of the child in the first year of age and a comparison to the language”, Early Human Development 75, 2003, 55-69
Peter F. MacNeilage, Barbara L. Davis, Christine L. Matyear “Babbling and first words: Phonetic similarities and differences”, Speech Communication 22, 1997, 269-277
Jill K. Dolata, Barbara L. Davis, Peter F. MacNeilage, “Characteristics of the rhythmic organization of vocal babbling: Implications for an amodal linguistic rhythm”, Infant Behavior & Development 31, 2008, 422-431
About language “Mi nyag” as shown in the video
Bang smad (Bomei) Village is located east of the Yar lung (Yalong) River in Bang smad Township, thirty-five kilometers southwest of Nyag rong (Xinlong) County Town. Nyag rong is one of the eighteen counties of Dkar mdzes (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Si khron (Sichuan) Province, PR China. There are thirty-six households and 223 people in Bang smad Village. All villagers are classified as Tibetan and speak Mi nyag. They are the only ones left who can speak this language.
Villagers earn cash driving cars or tractors, doing construction work, and collecting and selling caterpillar fungus, medicinal herb. Villagers cultivate barley, wheat, potatoes, turnip and peas for self-consumption. Most families also own six or seven head of livestock (cows, horses, sheep, goats, and yak-cow hybrids) that provide dairy products.