'The horse is suffering and we say it is dancing' Ikaan proverb
A wordbook for the visitor
Hanna Haaslahti's installation opens up a realtime view at the entrance gates of Flickr's image management and sharing site. The installation attempts to give a glimpse of this massive flow by randomly harvesting bursts of images projected on the gallery wall. In 16 months of fieldwork, data on the Ikaan language was collected by linguist Sophie Salffner, visual anthropologist Maria Tzika, Fred Adekanye, Adesoji Olusi and other community members in Ikakumo. A specific focus of these investigations was to collect a documentary corpus of language around the knowledge of, and practices in, food, food production and farming, and the New Yam Festival held every year to mark the harvesting of the crop.
The community abides to rules set by the tools (https://www.flickr.com/help/guidelines) and its communication structure is redesigned regularly to keep it fresh, smart and to equip it with powerful new features. Ikaan is a small endangered minority language spoken by a couple of thousand people in two villages in south-western Nigeria.
Together, Flickr's uploaded images make up a virtual photo-album, whose magnitude and shape is difficult to fathom. Hanna's installation attempts to visualise this massive flow by constantly capturing the most recent uploads and showing them for a moment in the gallery space. The viewer sees the stream of images before they are tagged, rated, censured or categorised by Flickr or the uploaders themselves. Without this context, the meaning of a single image is shifted from a personal item to a stock image. The moment becomes the epoch. We make arbitrary connections; from the juxtaposition, motifs may appear within the visual stream originating from different sources, and we read as unintended. Maria and Sophie's documentation is raw footage shot for research purposes. As non-Ikaan speakers, we are nevertheless driven by a desire to understand and find commonality. We focus on gestures, facial expressions and other clues, to create meaning from what we see or hear. The work of the gallery visitor, as language researcher, seeking to understand beyond the words –such as this press release-, how the artist's language is constructed and for what purpose, how thoughts and intentions are expressed, the tone, the context, the pragmatics and how the perception of the world and the language created or used have shaped each other over time.
Languages are disappearing even faster than the world’s species, with many estimates projecting the extinction of one language every two weeks. The distinct voice developed by communities to express specific details about their unique environments and cultural customs is rooted out.
In contrast, 55 million images are uploaded every month on Flickr's servers, creating a growing visual stockpile on every imaginable topic. Because of its sheer size the structure appears permanent, but the images' obsolescence is built in the files' format and changes in operating systems. Individual expressions will dissolve to invisibility, as personal records become mass data.
Sharing personal moments and experiences.
Sharing personal moments and experiences with a worldwide audience.