Accueil > visual art > Borne


mardi 13 novembre 2018, par erikm

Borne - Milestone
code sacré - Sacred Code
Sound installation, ceramics and sound system 33 x 12 x 10.5 cm.

There are a lot of photos and film footage left over from World War I. In terms of sound, though, there is only one film that recorded a measure of the sound vibrations on Armistice Day. That representation of sound shows all the magnitude of the sound of the artillery on the Western Front in Moselle. It preserves the sound of one minute before and one minute after the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The first minute still reflects the clamor of weapons tearing through the soil, to be replaced at 11 o’clock sharp by a flatline : "the silence."

At the instigation of the Gamerz Festival (Aix-en-Provence), whose artistic mission is to explore the languages of machines in all their forms, I wanted to use this piece to re-inject, much like a temporal echo, the question of code into a historical context. The piece’s title refers to the milestones showcased in the work of French artist and WWI infantryman Gaston Deblaize, which were made out of ceramics and contained sacred battlefield soil from Verdun.

This sound piece is made up of 16 codes played randomly. These codes were created by Choctaw soldiers from the U.S. Army in October 1918, for the purpose of radio communication between regiments, battalions, etc.

Up until then, every country communicated in their own language, but Colonel A. W. Bloor knew that messages were being intercepted by the enemy. Under his initiative, the future Code Talkers were first tasked with adapting the polysynthetic Choctaw language to the military vocabulary of that time. So First Battalion became a grain of corn, a colonel became a deer, and a general became a buffalo. Those transpositions, which I find very poetic, inspired me to find those codes and to make them audible again.

The 18 Code Talkers of the 36th Division, Company E, used these codes via DeForest BC-14A military radios on the night of October 26, 1918. This new ruse disoriented the enemy and in the space of three days, it had retreated.

These volunteer soldiers, whose language was unfamiliar to the many ethnic groups fighting in the war, played a pivotal role in the enemy’s surrender. The Choctaws were guarantors of the code until it was declassified in 1968. Recognition and gratitude from the West were a long time coming.

Furthermore, the end of the Great War marked the beginning of the industrialization of agriculture, leading to a deep transformation of the land and landscapes and eventually to the genetic modification of living things. In these landscapes, now polluted to the extreme, the contrast with Native American cosmogony is glaring. As land is sacred and inviolable, the concept of wealth and the accumulation of goods are considered a mental illness. In their culture, the land on which they live does not belong to them because they are the land, they belong to the land.

"In the nineteenth century, an old Choctaw chief predicted that the language of his people would cross the ocean and save lives. "

Erikm 2018

My thanks to : Judy Allen, Dora M. Wickson, Mafalda Camara and Olivier Zol, François Martig & Emilie Roi, Diane Eberhardt.

The piece to integrate in 2019 the collection of Chahta Foundation
at Durant Oklahoma, Usa