Dor Zlekha Levy’s new work at Petach Tikva Museum
Tongues is as an audiovisual installation based on conversational applications, as well as text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversion technologies. The work muses over contemporary and future modes of communication, which in Zlekha Levy’s work takes the form of Hebrew-Arabic-digital voices.
The work consists of a dialogue between two voices originating in automatic speech translation applications, audible in the exhibition space. “Carmit” and “Majid” are synthesized generic voices, their speech capabilities developed from and are based on digital sounds in Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew-speaking Carmit and Arabic-speaking Majid engage in a dialogue inspired by mundane encounters in the local linguistic sphere, fastidiously composed for them by the artist. Ostensibly responding to one another, they repeat words in both languages. The ongoing conversation between Carmit and Majid is divided into chapters that differ from one another and range between acquaintance, prayer, suspect arrest procedure, singing of the national anthem, swearing, and a love song. Original music is intermittently played in the background, designed to accompany the emotional frequencies absent from the speakers’ voices.
During the recording process, the voices of the two speakers were translated and mixed, to generate a chain reaction of vocal repetitions and translations. As the voices are gradually drawn away from their original tone, the phrases become vague and the differences between the languages increasingly ambiguous. The work pinpoints a certain form of digital communication in a manner which a-priori causes it to fail, as the original goal of the translation application is to aid in conducting a dialogue, whereas here, emphasis is accorded to a deficiency in clarity due to the mix of languages. Concurrently, Zlekha Levy explores a history of misunderstandings, linguistic inventions, and leaks between the neighboring languages, relating to the conversation management and automatic translation applications as both a problem and a solution.
Tongues will make its first appearance on Thursday, August 1, as part of the exhibition ‘Deep Feeling: AI and Emotions’ opening at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art.