Messages in jars

Paul De Marinis' The Messenger deals with the interrelationship between electronic communications technologies and modern lifestyle.

The installation splices up old-fashioned telegraphy to electronic e-mail traffic. E-mails are received by a computer and distributed to three systems of output devices that enable installation visitors to experience the messages sensorially:


- 26 washbasins arrayed in a large oval; each basin is assigned a letter in the alphabet and a unique voice. Built-in loudspeakers serially intone the individual letters of the incoming e-mail.

- 26 dancing skeletons wearing ponchos displaying one of the letters of the alphabet. The letters of the message activate the corresponding skeleton and the chorus line's dance reproduces the text of the e-mail.

- 26 electrolytic jars with metal electrodes in the form of the letters A to Z oscillate and bubble when electricity is passed through them and let the letters of the e-mail glow in color.


The Messenger is inspired by XVIIIth Century physician and naturalist Francesc Salva i Campillo's output device for his telegraph equipment. The system involved an array of 26 servants who, following an electrical shock, would each call out a particular letter of the transmitted message, which could then be understood by a listener.

One of the winners of Ars Electronica 2006. Via ars electronica blog (cool! means that someone else is extensively and professionally covering the festival so this year i'll finally enjoy the festival and won't bother writing about it like a maniac).

Other work by De Marinis
: Fire speaking to you.