Talking the Fish: A mobile communication performance between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia

Concept by Anita Hofer, Jogi Hofmüller, Reni Hofmüller, Doris Jauk-Hinz, Eva Ursprung (2005)

Talking the Fish is a mobile communication performance transgressing 3 borders between countries of different status within the new Europe (as matters stand in 2005):

  1. Italy - EU founding member
  2. Slovenia - new EU member
  3. Croatia - still no EU member, applicant country

Together with the MonteParadiso Hacklab in Pula, which is part of the arts-, education- and social association MonteParadiso, a group of Austrian artists and hackers will develop a performance in order to visualize the socio-geographic situation of the city of Pula. Pula is an important harbour and tourist resort on the fringe of Schengen. Talking the Fish is placed as an interface between current and old technologies, between old and new political systems and social developments. The international semaphore alphabet as symbol for the old, slow, analogue system of international communication, only functioning within sight, will be transferred into the digital realm, using movement and interpretation of movement in order to make the exchange of an email accessible to human perception.

The performance situation:

A ship is approaching the harbour of Pula coming from the open sea. A team of three performers starts transmitting an email message from the ship to the harbour using flags. The second performance unit is placed on the tower of the ex-military territory (Vallelunga), functioning as relais station to the harbour. This second unit reads the information sequences sent from the ship and re-transmits them to the 3rd performance unit at the harbour. The 3rd performance unit answers to the ship via the relais station. The transportation of data from the ship to the harbour will be managed by use of IP over Semaphore Flag Signals (IP-SFS), a protocol specially designed to transmit IP datagrams using Semaphore Flag Signals, a language formerly used by sailors. IP-SFS allows the transmission of IP data over line of sight links up to the distance that flag signals can be read.

At each of the three involved stations (ship, relais and harbour) three people will be in charge of signaling flag signals, reading answers, acknowledging the reception of signals, reading commands from a computer and typing commands into a computer.

At an expected rate of about 1 bit per second and about 1 kilobyte of effective data to transmit we expect a duration of 2 1/2 hours.

What can be perceived in the harbour, is the reading and transmitting of digital data in flag alphabet. Additionally the underwater sound of the approaching ship can be heard in the same area of the harbour on a PA system. The sound starts appearing when the first exchange of data is established between the ship and the relais station. This means that the approaching of the ship is perceivable first as sound, and only after a longer while also as image.

The video- and audio recordings of the performance will be presented in form of an installation at Monte Paradiso.

The collaboration of Austrian and Croatian artists and hackers on the development of a new analogue-digital "meta-language" will strengthen existing connections and establish new cooperation networks between artists and hackers in Austria and Croatia. The whole process will be accompanied by Austrian and Croatian theoreticians (art theoreticians and sociologists), who will publish their reflections on the project website and in different media.

The City of Pula was originally very interested in supporting the project, but they had new elections for the city council. After elections, the new responsibles were not willing to give any support. Therefore, the project had to be cancelled.

Research Triest 2004

Anita Hofer, Jogi Hofmüller, Reni Hofmüller, Eva Ursprung. Photos: Eva Ursprung

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Research Pula 2004

Anita Hofer, Jogi Hofmüller, Reni Hofmüller, Eva Ursprung. Photos: Eva Ursprung

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Research Pula 2005

Anita Hofer, Doris Jauk-Hinz, Jogi Hofmüller, Reni Hofmüller, Eva Ursprung. Photos: Eva Ursprung

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