Installation art with projection

Behold, they are one people, and they have one language,
and this is what they began to do,
and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.
Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language,
so that they may not understand one another’s speech.

(“Old Testament” Genesis 11)

We humans tear apart ourselves by our own voices.

By voices themselves, We will be those who has uttered the parols, and at the same time, those who has heard parols. Struggles that arise within us being torn apart by voices. I wonder if the parols I uttered was really suitable. I wonder if humans can appreciate each other by parols.

Uncertainty of each sound, which means a voice that I have thought to be a mere sound is a parol and a voice that I have thought to be a parol is a mere sound, would be the origin of that we humans sometimes can and can not appreciate each other by parols. I began to produce my work "BABEL" from this viewpoint.

Sounds that we utter with our mouths and hear with our ears. When the sounds become parols ?

For example, when we saw the letters "東京駅 (Tokyo Station)", the sound of "TOKYO EKI (toːkjoː eki)" occurs to us. To be precise, I do not know whether it is a sound or not. But letters and sounds are the only means for humans to recognize parols. Anyway still, I feel “Tokyo Eki” is not letters but a sound. It is a sound that does not shake the air. If we have termed a state that a parols have become a sound a “voice”, "Tokyo Eki" is a “voice” which does not travel through the air. It is a way of presence of parols that are neither letters nor sounds.

Previous thoughts and emotions to the moment when they are uttered from the mouths are not something that can not be translated into parols but still parols as "voices". They are parols only found in silence. We trace the "voices" so as to cease the silence and actually attempt to utter parols out of our mouths.

But, in most cases, voices can not imitate the "voices" well. We can not convert the “voices” into the voices that shake the air.

The language grammar, the ritual-like side of conversation and the utterance tied to customs, that we can not help admitting to be habits we have learned imperceptibly, hinder the conversion.

Though “voices” should have been the same as parols in silence and have been able to completely express everything.

Also when we remember the parols once uttered, what come to mind are sounds rather than letters. Voices disconnected from the body of the person who uttered parols, within others who memorize the voices, become "voices". Parols in the state of belonging to neither the person who utter parols nor who memorize them go on dissolving mutual distinction. They continue to be played as “voices” whose owner is vague. But if we behave as if the “voices” were our own parols, we feel something inconvenient. Still, the "voices" has a difference from the parols of others. However, by the difference, the memory of the fact that once the "voices" were parols that shook air vividly revive. And, the time in which the person who uttered parols have been alive becomes clear. The existence of the person who memorize parols stands out vividly. This existence of the "voices" is, when parols are uttered from within the flesh-and-blood humans, what connects the languages of intangibility and human bodies. The fact that we can understand parols with each other will be also a proof of the connections between us humans that share the physical phenomena of “voices”.

In considering the relationship between the utterance of “voices” and the birth of parols, I refered to the idea of philosopher Giorgio Agamben.

We should not regard the concept of voices as mere sounds. If we were able to comprehend the meaning of every sound, we would never have acquired languages. However, since we are not, we always try to translate sounds into meanings. That is, we catch phonemes we have heard, regard them as signifiants (words), and bring out meanings from them. Voices are what we must remove when we have meanings develop and have languages be meaningful.

This process remove all voices from us, and create essential voids in each center of languages, namely, that of speaking. Now, I would name this process which is embodied within the fact languages are generated “voices”. These “voices” are no longer voices as sounds, but exactly, also no longer meanings. Each “voice” is a mere speech act, and it is the basis of existence and time.

(Alex Murray, 2014, “Giorgio Agamben” Seidosha, translated by Kazumi Takakuwa)

Then, I began to think what if I, a native speaker of Japanese, try to grasp “voices”.

Sounds that we utter with our mouths and hear with our ears. When the sounds become parols ?

For example, each unit of one sound such as "あ", "い", "う", "え" or "お" is only how to count sounds conforming to the mechanism of the Japanese to which they belong. "あ", "い", "う", "え" or "お" are not the sounds themselves but how to call sounds when we viewed them from one of the standpoints (“names”).

Suppose what objectify, classify and name the cosmos is language, sound itself that is one of the elements constituting the language also should be able to be counted by being classified conforming to the mechanism of the language, and as a result, comes to have names.

When a sound is called by name, the sound becomes a voice and a parol by the name.

When we humans hear foreign languages which we are not used to in our ears, we feel we have heard the pure "voices" of speakers. In addition, when we try to imitate and pronounce them by ourselves, we feel like we have uttered the genuine "voices" of humans.

Here, I have assumed the existence of some voices.

■to those who utter voices
・voices that have meanings as languages
・voices that do not have meanings as languages

■to those who hear voices
・voices, from that we can infer that will have meanings as languages, and have them
・voices, from that we can infer that will have meanings as languages, but do not have them
・voices, from that we can infer that will not have meanings as languages, and do not have them
・voices, from that we can infer that will not have meanings as languages, but have them

In my work, I considered trying to let some of these voices arise. Silence appearing in the topos where overlaps of voices missed utterance by means of utterrance of many voices. This silence is just what I have tried to seek for. In other words, I tried to “remove all voices from us, and create essential voids in each center of languages, namely, that of speaking” (from the above quotation).

First, I carried out a questionnaire for those whose native languages are other than Japanese, in which I examined whether there are some words of the same pronunciations as the 50 sounds of Japanese from "あ" to "ん" in their native languages. Then, I recorded and collected the voices on the basis of the questionnaire.

・Those who are Japanese language school students during their stays in Japan
・Long-stay foreign workers in Japan
・Tourists I spoke to in the street
・Age, sex, gender and nationality are chosen at random

・The examinees are free to choose or skip words.
・I left it to senses of the examinees whether each pronunciation of the words is the same as each of the 50 sounds.
・I treat each examinee not as a representative of speakers of each language but as an individual speaker of each language.
・I let examinees utter the only words they had chosen and written in order from “あ” to “ん”.

The voices they uttered are played with three images made up of letters in a darkroom. The images are reflected by the projectors to the acrylic plates whose rear side got transparency film put on. The size of one acrylic sheet is 60 inches. Each plate is suspended at a height of human eyes, so the three screens come to be side by side. By using acrylic plates on which I had put a rear transparency film, I made the letters in the images give the impression that they are floating.

The 50 sounds, including ones that have not been uttered, go on playing in a steady beat with the letters of "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others. When it comes to the beat where no sound is uttered, silence arrives. "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others by various language speakers with their foreign accents appear one after another in the loop playback.

The contents of these three screens are as follows.

■Screen A

In exchange for the appearance of the meaning of each word uttered, "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others disappear from the 50 sounds table, by one letter at each beat. If the examinees have judged no meaning exists, an interval is left. The sequences of words that finally surface on the basis of the 50 sounds table are quite different with each other depending on the languages. For example, in the case of Chinese whose words can each have four meanings because of its four tones, many words appear to full screen. However, in the case of the languages such as French which have fewer words of the same pronunciations as "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others of Japanese, the rows and the lines of the words are conspicuous for many intervals.

In addition, even in the case of the same language, the words of choices are different with each other or there is a variety of ways intervals arise, depending on the senses of individual speakers.

■Screen B

The meanings of the words uttered and their phonetic symbols appear. It is shown that sounds we hear only as "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others in Japanese have different names and meanings in other languages. I adopted International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as the phonetic symbol of the languages except Pinyin as that of Chinese.

■Screen C

The letters from “あ” to “ん” go on being projected in a steady beat. The sounds that are pronounced as languages other than Japanese, by listening to them while looking at each character of hiragana, feels like sorts of Japanese with foreign accents. Rather, there are also words which we, native speakers of Japanese, can not hear as the sounds that are present in the 50 sounds of Japanese if we do not look at the characters, so we are sometimes amazed at these ways examinees tie their native languages and Japanese together.

Here, I would think about the sequences of parols that finally appear on the screen A.

These are paroles that are hardly tied with each other in everyday life. Conflicts between Japanese and other languages caused by intervention of the framework of 50 sounds. Influences of individual senses for language and emotion upon the ties. I felt poetry on these parols which were obliged to be generated in different situations of topos from everyday life. I hope to treat these parols and this work which represent the generative process of them as language art.

If selecting out parols from cosmos that is different from so-called language grammar of everyday life and putting them together are poetry, production process of this work "BABEL" is certainly a work of poetry, and, the letters appearing on the screen and the voices going on playing can be regarded as poetry itself.

As I mentioned it at the beginning of this interpretation, there have ever been a variety of frameworks in poetry, such as restriction of the number of letters, meter and styles. These countless frameworks include everything, from prerequisite conditions for the formations as the poems, to routine concepts that started as mere techniques.

Poetry automatism (automatic writing) once led by André Breton was the experiment on dictation in sleep and stenography at high speed. Its purpose is to create parols which do not depend only on the human arbitrariness based on the consciousness such as aesthetics and ethics, by setting a condition that his consciousness is vague or a severe state that he forces himself to fill in the manuscript paper in time.

This work "BABEL" has a structure in which I had made the frameworks in generative process intervene in its production methods and forms, which is the same technique as the one that has been attempted in linguistic expression, and furthermore, the work has involved a variety of language speakers as individuals in the structure. A norm which an artist produced let combinations of parols which do not depend only on the human arbitrariness appear. This work as a topos where parols are generated has a potential of new linguistic expression.

Moreover, I think the phenomena that occurred in the production process of this work are important facts as linguistic phenomena.

What affect the judgement on “what to pronounce and not to do” by the examinees who participated in this questionnaire, are not only the conflicts between Japanese and other languages that are huge presences being burdened with each culture. It stands to reason that indivisual senses for language affect the utterances. Not only that, delicate elements such as hesitation and agitation which arise as emotion at the moment they utter parols have a great influence. I aimed in this work to grasp these wavers of human hearts that try to deviate from the techniques and fixed forms.

They would have experienced a variety of struggles while I was recording and collecting their voices based on the questionnaire.

■Their struggles
I would be able to point out the four factors from the research in this work.

●Linguistic struggles as follows : “This sound might be a word that has a meaning in Japanese or might not.”
●Semantic struggles in social norms such as the interaction with the artist (me)
●Emotional struggles as follows : “I want to be regarded as a good speaker of Japanese.” or “I might be scolded if I can't speak the voices well in recording.”
●Struggles with the nuance of two sounds such as a question of whether the sound of Japanese and that of examinees’ native language resemble each other or not in their impressions.

Moreover, I came to have the following opinions on three factors as the very person who listen to their voices.

■My opinions
●Are they really pronouncing the sounds with the impressions of the meanings of them in their native languages while reading the languages they had written in by themselves ?
 They are pronouncing innocently the words which have meanings such as “fart” or “pee” that would make others, who have a comprehensible relationship with each other because of sharing the same native language, feel “embarrassed” to utter. Even a pronunciation of their native language, now that they pronounced it within the framework of the 50 sounds table, might be no longer a native language for each of them, but no better than a foreign language which does not have the meaning with realization.
●What is the reason they enjoy this questionnaire and recording ?
  In the questionnaire at the Japanese language school, there were many cases where the students saw the others, with whom I had made an appointment in advance to let them gather around me, are participating in the questionnaire entry and the recording, and participated willingly. In addition, I saw cases where examinees who have the same native language compete with each other to find many more words on their own than the others. From the viewpoint of a linguistic game, is there a universality in human senses of playing with parols ?
●Even in the case of native languages, what they are for the examinees is differs and changes depending on the degree of their Japanese learning, and the numbers and the sorts of languages that they have acquired or are learning other than Japanese. What on earth does a native language mean ? There would be no other way for me but to think that even those who seem to speak the same language have each individual language of their own.

By the way, it will be possible to say the whole of what I have mentioned above itself has been included in the category of "semantics" in linguistics. I do not have a viewpoint that I recognize the superiority or inferiority to each other in differences of languages themselves and of language abilities because of senses for languages or disorders of individuals. I will advance the interpretation on the assumption that there are no stages such as evolution, degeneration, superiority or inferiority in the transformation phase and acquisition situation of languages.

■What I felt during the process of research and feedback on recording of the examinees' voices

I think that “Japanese” with their foreign accents would be also certainly Japanese and there would be no perfect form of the language. A foreign accent means, not only an aspect of the features of the intonation in the foreign language, but also a tendency of disorder, confusion or distortion affected by its grammatical structure. Also in this work, I was able to somehow have an idea what his or her native language would be only by hearing "あ", "い", "う", "え", "お" and the others. It will be proper for us to think that Japanese with foreign accents is rather the language of each individual than Japanese language. I feel that, with regard to a person on a higher level than a certain proficiency in Japanese, the linguistic view based on his or her personality appears in how to mistake the grammar of Japanese. In addition, I have the impression that parols exchanged between them and me who am Japanese have been liberated from the prescribed grammatical structure of one language.

The grammar between individuals is instantaneously generated only for the purpose of smooth conversation in which we can understand mutual parols and, as a result, can convey mutual minds. This will be the phenomenon which approachs essential questions about the existence of the parols such as what it means that "humans exchange parols" or that "humans communicate something to others".

For example, after I heard their incorrect Japanese, I intentionally used the incorrect Japanese, because I judged that the communication would be more successful by using Japanese in imitation of their incorrect ways than by using the correct Japanese. This language does not mean the incomplete state of Japanese, rather one language only among them and me. The “parole” in a mixture of English and Japanese used in the international school is one of such examples.

Moreover, it will be proper to say that one language with the great backgrounds of culture, climate or calendar of the country or the race is a manifestation of the interpretation of the world by the speakers sharing the backgrounds. Learning of a foreign language other than the native one means a translation, that is to say, a reinterpretation of foreign one as the result of an interpretation of the world, by native one as the result of a different interpretation of the world. Its structure means, as it were, an interpretation of a result of an interpretation.

In addition, they exactly use the grammar they have learned according to the lexical rules, therefore they repeat the sentences with the same grammatical structure many times during the conversation. That looks like meter or fixed forms and feels poetic.

Even when I heard words of languages whose meanings I do not understand, I was occasionally able to read their emotions by the intonations of their parols. What is more, in many languages, the way of binding ties between intonations and emotions is similar to each other, and it felt like something universal to me.

While seeming to be a contradictory situation to what I mentioned above, in the conversation with them, understanding of the meaning of their parols has directly a stronger connection with understanding of their emotions. In the case of mutual conversation by native speakers of Japanese, often we can understand what the parols mean and can not what we mean with each other. That is because we add nuances and use subjective expressions that satisfy our own senses rather than lexical rules we can share with each other. However, they can communicate their intentions to us well because of the clarity of the grammatical combinations which they bring as inexperienced speakers in Japanese. Emotions are never buried in the grammar. In short, a "smattering" would be the condition that grammar and emotions are tied more strongly. It would be the condition that intonations, that is, inflections or rhythms of parols are not tied to speakers' emotions and they can not delicately control languages, then grammatical structures would be the only factor which they can put "what they want to say" in and depend on. As for our native language, we forget to depend on the grammatical structure in accordance with the discipline of the language, and then, the combination of “what we want to say” and the grammar tends to be a subjective assortment of our own.

This situation sometimes hinders our communication.

The "smattering" contains fewer subjective nuances mentioned above because it has no choice but to depend on the structure in accordance with the discipline, so it will possible to say that we can easily see the essence of “what we want to say” in it. There are the cases, from the viewpoint of communication, where the ability to handle the grammar and nuances at will does not necessarily mean the control of the language.

Through the production of this work, I was able to realize that I myself who heard the voices, they themselves who uttered them and the attainment of the work itself have been already "linguistic" and "human", and that humans have no other way but to be always linguistic.

Here again, I want to refer to the discourse of Agamben.

A person who has faced a sound whose meaning is vague would be hoping to know its meaning. However, for that, he or she must have known that the sound he or she heard is not the one of an empty parol and a mere “blah-blah-blah” sound but the one of a meaningful parol.

Parols of humans are “voices of consciousness”. The consciousness is present within parols and it really exists owing to them, that is just because parols are separated voices. Every sound acquires its meaning in “empty” voices of aminals, and come to be existent as a name, that is, as a direct non-existence of each sound itself and each object named.

(Giorgio Agamben, 2009, “Il linguaggio e la morte (The language and the death)” Chikuma shobo, translated by Tadao Uemura)

The 50 sounds table they saw in the questionnaire is not an empty parol. We humans seek for meanings. We have the desire to hear voices as parols. There will be a possibility that we find the essence of parols in the bound between the sounds as mere syllables of the stage where their meanings are not yet known to us and the sounds of the state where the fact that they are parols is known but their meanings are not yet known to us.

Here, I want to get back to the idea of the outset. The following is the quotation from the beginning.

We humans tear apart ourselves by our own voices.

By voices themselves, We will be those who has uttered the parols, and at the same time, those who has heard parols. Struggles that arise within us being torn apart by voices. I wonder if the parols I uttered was really suitable. I wonder if humans can appreciate each other by parols.

Uncertainty of each sound, which means a voice that I have thought to be a mere sound is a parol and a voice that I have thought to be a parol is a mere sound, would be (now, I want to use “is”) the origin of that we humans sometimes can and can not appreciate each other by parols.

However even so, with whatever do we try to balance the “suitableness” ? With our own emotions or thoughts ? Each voice of our own is conveyed faster to and heard earlier by each of ourselves than others, and is checked with “what each of ourselves had wanted to say”. However, in the first place, it is ambiguous whether “what each of ourselves had wanted to say” already exists previous to our own parols or not.

Since the checks on the “suitableness” are ones with something ambiguous, there is little hope that we can hold convictions about the “suitableness”.

Nevertheless, why do we pursue the “suitableness” ?

That would not because parols are tools for communication with others. The “suitableness” is longed for by our survival desire of spirituality. Our self-consciousnesses which are torn apart within the effect of verbs such as “speak” or “hear” when we utter voices try to believe, at least by the “suitableness”, themselves to be what is firm.

Then, while we are feeling the “suitableness”, while we are really exchanging parols, strictly, while we are inclined to have been doing them, we can get the feelings that the distinction between oneself and others vanishes, as it were, that others enter into oneself and onself melts into others. Precisely because of a clear distinction between oneself and others, it is possible for us to use parols with each other and do an act of jumping into the area where the egos are vague. However, by the act of using parols with each other, we are going to get the “suitableness” which is so suitable that we are inclined to feel there is no distinction between oneself and others.

Our self-survival desire of spirituality. Pleasure of self-loss owing to immersion of oneself in others and infiltration of others in oneself. Both seem to be contradictory, but they support their realizations with each other.

"I" myself expand according to continuation of our finding and awaring of the fact that “I” myself feel, think and behave like this in a case like this. If the reality is cut off, "I" myself also disappear. As many “I” myself as realities appear. One of a number of realities is each of others, and humans interact with others being roused by self-survival desire of spirituality.

The loss of others is that of oneself that has expanded until that moment. We often mention that physical disappearance of the other (that is, death) is, so to speak, an agony of the disappearance of a part of oneself, but that is not a parable about grief. Exactly, that will be the experience of losing one of many realities that shape oneself and lacking oneself. We might feel relief in sharing oneself (including occurrences and parols that make up oneself) with others by parols because of the fear above. When each parol of our own obtains the “suitableness” for the realities that make up oneself, we will be able to feel the reliability of our existence with certainty.

Here, I try to think about parols that have a form of type, that is, optical representation from a different angle. I want to think about the “suitableness” by adopting "eyes" as a clue. We do not use the wording “catch one's eyes (目を奪われる)” as the literal meaning “grab one's eyeballs” but as that “make one be attracted to an object heartily and concentrate one's gaze on it unconsciously”. In an other instance, we do not use the wording “turn one's eyes (目を向ける)” not only as the meaning “direct one's gaze to an object” but also as that “have one's consciousness and thought function”. Many of the wordings about "eyes" have functions that indicate the nature of the human minds and consciousnesses. "Eyes" symbolize the existence of what is nonphysical while being physical in parallel.

The poet Goethe had thought about eyes, light and color which is the result of correlation of the former two. Then, he stated the followings in his "(Zur Farbenlehre) Theory of Colours" quoting a poem of the founder of Neoplatonism Plotinus. (quotations from "Theory of Colours" by Goethe as follows)

The eye may be said to owe its existence to light, which calls forth, as it were, a sense that is akin to itself; the eye, in short, is formed with reference to light, to be fit for the action of light; the light it contains corresponding with the light without. We are here reminded of a significant adage in constant use with the ancient Ionian school— "Like is only known by Like ;" and again, of the words of an old mystic writer, which may be thus rendered,

If the eye were not sunny, how could we perceive light ? If God’s own strength lived not in us, how could we delight in Divine things ?

Translated from the German : With Notes by
Charles Lock Eastlake, R.A., F.R.S.
John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1840.
The M.I.T. Press
Cambridge, Massachusetts And London, England, 1970

The “eye” mentioned above is not only physical one but also a metaphor of nonphysical existence of mind or consciousness which an “eye” symbolizes.

A physical "eye" requires an interval to see between itself and the object. That is because it is impossible to see if the eye as the subject to see and the object are touching each other. An interval allows a physical "eye" to see. Well then, What is it that enables a nonphysical eye to see ? I think it is a parol.

I want to proceed to think about the discourse of Goethe and the poem of Plotinus, assigning a 〈parol〉 to “light” that is indispensable for an eye as a physical organ to see the world and 〈myself〉 to an “eye” that is the subject to see.

《The 〈myself〉 may be said to owe its existence to a 〈parol〉》. We have made our own contours with ideas and concepts by parols such as attribute, emotion, thought and memory, and have cognized others on the basis of them. However, even so, that does not mean there exists no world previous to parols.

Then, it may be said that 《A 〈parol〉 calls forth, as it were, a sense that is akin to itself》, that is, it calls forth humans who understand it. Moreover, it may be said that 《the 〈myself〉, in short, is formed with reference to a 〈parol〉, to be fit for the action of a 〈parol〉; the 〈parol〉 it contains corresponding with the 〈parol〉 without》, which means that the essence which things and phenomena hold and a human who has the makings of feeling it correspond with each other and call forth a parol. It comes down to that 《Like is only known by Like》.

Feelings that "I can not say well" or "I can not tell everything" or others, which are related to the “suitableness” of parols, depend on conditions of parols, that is, those of intervals. Parols, as intervals, separate us and the essence of things and phenomena. Though the intervals and separations enable us to see the essence, they hold difficulty with vision or possibility of illusion at the same time.

“I want to say well.” This hope is an emotion which arises regardless of whether the languages of mutual speakers are the same or not. It is also what I have deeply felt in the production process of my work. From the very beginning, if humans had not held a feeling that "I want to say well", the language grammar would not have been prepared and would not have even existed.

The "babel" which is the title of my work and the name of the birthplace of linguistic confusion gave birth to the word "babble". It means nonsense or rambling chatter, which is also the onomatopoeia standing for the babbling voice “babubabu(バブバブ)” of the pre-speech period. We tend to be so serious about our parols that we can not let all of them go past laughing them away as trifling chatters. Even though the Tower had not been destroyed and the only one people with only one language had not been lost, we should have suffered for parols in sufficient confusion.