A Convention of Tiny Movements


Mixed-media installation comprising Spinneys Supermarket, Achrafieh Beirut August 2017 (digital chromogenic print, 137.7 × 220 cm), Shudder the Thought (sound piece with vibration speaker, 9 min.), and custom potato chip bags.

“When your voice is issued from your mouth through the air, it hits the objects in your vicinity and causes tiny vibrations on their surfaces. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a group of computer scientists have discovered that by video recording an object using high-speed cameras, they can sense those minute vibrations and reconstruct the sound that produced them. This offers the ability to turn such everyday objects as a bag of potato chips, a potted plant, or a box of tissues into a listening device, or what they call visual microphones.

The photograph titled Spinneys Supermarket, Achrafieh Beirut August 2017 is an index of all the objects (shown in color) that can, to date, be successfully used as sound recording devices. Inversely, the black-and- white sections of this photograph map all the objects that cannot yet be used as microphones and therefore show the blind or silent spots of this technology. This map of a near-future supermarket was predicted to be in full effect by 2017.

However, although the objects shown in color are able to listen to you and record your voice, they will never produce crystal-clear sound quality. Their individual material characteristics each have their own way of hearing the world, which colors the recording. For the inventors of this technology, the most perplexing and intriguing aspect is the texture that each object adds to a recording. They think of it as the object’s individual voice. They know that the future of surveillance will involve recording our voices using the minute vibrations of the objects that surround us, but a future yet to be imagined will come from listening closely to what the objects themselves have to say.”