ASCII Alphabet

Dorion Berg

1999, 05:30 minutes, colour


Consider, then, a code with only two symbols in its alphabet. We can give those symbols any names we want, and represent them in any way we choose. The names we give them will not alter the fact that there are just two symbols; their essence is that they are different from one another.

Predicated on difference, digital information relies on its maintenance to survive. When an image or sound is digitized it is stripped of all ambiguity and coded into a comprehensible object of binary language. Paradoxically this same information format, while dependent upon difference at its core (1 & 0), has largely facilitated the dilution of differences on the macro level. The formal strategies of speed, collage and multi-sensorial stimulation, that are synonymous with digital media, tend to have an overall homogenizing effect. ASCII Alphabet is a humorous look at the 'digitality' of the information object. It consists of a series of opposing image pairs, taken from antiquated children's encyclopaedias, and accompanying sounds. These paired binaries are arranged according to one of the most commonly used binary text encoding schemes: the ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). In ASCII code each character of the alphabet can be reduced to a 7 digit binary string. ASCII Alphabet is structured so as to slowly reveal the encoded alphabet by first transcribing these strings using the 26 pairs of sounds (A-Z), then by adding the numeral 1 and 0, and finally by using both the opposing images and sounds together. In an attempt to give insight, for our analog consciousness, into the nature of digital information, ASCII Alphabet becomes more of an exploration of the breakdown of difference through digital translation and formal manipulation.

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