Binairy Talk

As wireless technologies proliferate, the air around us is increasingly filled with signals -- 3G, 4G, WiFi, Zigbee, GPS, Bluetooth, and countless others -- data streaming invisibly through the air at, literally, the speed of light. Niklas Isselburg and Jakob Kilian, two students at the Köln International School of Design in Germany, wanted to explore the artistic side of these hidden but ubiquitous signals.

In their installation Binairy Talk, the air isn’t just filled with digital signals; it becomes the signal itself. Instead of electromagnetic waves, ones and zeros are represented as compression waves (pulses of sound) generated by a loudspeaker. Each pulse travels through a cloud of fog, becoming a smoke ring that passes through a beam of laser light a few feet away.

To experience Binairy Talk, a participant types a message on a computer, which is translated into a sequence of bits. Puffs of fog shoot across the room, where a second computer detects interruptions in the laser beam. Bit by bit, letter by letter, the message is reconstructed -- plucked, you might say, from thin air.

Ones and Zeros: Binairy Talk
Ones and Zeros: Binairy Talk
Ones and Zeros: Binairy Talk
Ones and Zeros: Binairy Talk

As an instant messaging app, Binairy Talk is extremely inefficient. But as a tactile reminder of the unseen volumes of data generated by today’s billions of devices and translating the invisible to visible, it’s quite evocative.

See the installation for yourself in the video below.

Related: Satellite Lamps, Timo Arnall

By
Ted Burnham

Professional Combobulator

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