The Meena Project: An Entropic Name Game (2009)


When I tell someone my name is Meena, what they likely hear is Nina, Dina, or Tina. Miscommunication is a part of life, and misheard names are a common annoyance. For me, no matter how clearly I speak, it is an everyday occurrence. After researching John Cage and ruminating on his questions about sound, specifically what we hear and how we hear it, I decided to make an entropic experiment out of my name.

Purpose: Continued research into the intersections of cultural heritage and loss of language and oral histories. Specifically, Iranian-American culture and family histories.


Process: Every morning and afternoon for two weeks, I went to a local Starbucks®. They asked me for my drink order and when I gave it to them, they asked me for my name. When I told them my name, they wrote it on my cup. I compiled data in the form of thirty cups each bearing some semblance of my name. After scanning the handwriting, took the translations of my name to a recording studio, and had them read by a friend who was unaware of the project. I then created typographic representations of her audio translations. Finally, I recorded my computer as it read those typographic representations. When joined together, the two sounds form a random cadence of data that all stemmed from one name. I coupled this sound with the images of scanned handwriting and digital typographic representations to create an audio and visual experience of this entropic experiment. Lastly, I created a codex that could be employed by a single user to manually create the same randomized effect as the audiovisual experience.


Reflection: This simple interaction of introducing myself became a chaotic mess. It was the first experiment in a series and I found the inability to control a final outcome intensely freeing. I provided a catalyst (my name) and I watched the change unfold. This everyday obstacle manifests visually in the collected data. A name transformed into words like ‘MMEEINUH,’ which albeit comical, was hard to swallow. As individuals, our names are an important reflection of who we are. In this experiment, I was able to outwardly express the inner chaos and conflict caused by responding daily to names like Nina, Dina and Tina.