TYPO / TOPO
During the height of World War II, Hollywood actress Hedy LaMarr co-invented a groundbreaking type of secret radio signal along with her friend, the pianist George Antheil. Spurred by the hopes of helping the Americans defeat Adolf Hitler (LaMarr was a Jewish-Austrian expat), LaMarr’s “frequency-hopping signal” was modeled after notes on a player piano. Today, this technology is used to securely send wireless information over cell phones and the internet. This type of signal gets its strength from its unwillingness to stay still—like a moving target, it can be seen, but its scattered motion makes it impossible for others to pin down.
LaMarr’s use of frequency resonates quite deeply with my childhood experiences hearing conversations with Persian and English-speaking family: Words—consonants, sounds—zipping past each other in passionate conversation overlapping one another, or the strained audio through a landline phone call from 6,600 miles away; My father’s favorite television station on the rabbit-eared console broadcast Persian music videos in duet with visual static and intermittent clarity (at some point we learned how to ignore the static and hear the music).
TYPO / TOPO is a rotating digital projection that also resists being read. Fragments of words appear and then dissipate. Recognizable forms such as letters and architectural shapes move constantly, rotating across plains. Included in this visual vocabulary is a quote about love and life by Hedy LaMarr, although the words have been turned into anagrams. We also see glimpses of the architect Le Corbusier’s building, Cité Radieuse, a post-war housing block that was built for families bombed out of their homes in WWII France and that has become an archetype of utopian city living and modular design. Flashes of analog typography, hand-printed by an antique press, are woven into the digital landscape.
Languages die, regimes fall, traditions are lost, stories are forgotten. But the elemental building blocks that made them—the pieces of the puzzle that combined to form institutions and mythologies—may become dispersed and disseminated back into new systems.
A true modular series, this work has been made to exist independently or together: one may be shown standing alone singularly looped, two or three may be shown simultaneously in the round, or they may be looped sequentially.