Cantoni And Crescenti Tear Down The Tower Of Babel With 40 Cell Phones

<p>Sound installation <i><span class="caps">FALA</span></i> from our Brazilian creator duo Cantoni&amp;Crescenti investigates what might happen when machines start talking.</p>

In planning for the inevitable, you may have at some point pondered the question: What happens when machines start talking? Projecting an answer, Creators Cantoni&Crescenti created FALA (which translates to “speak”). Putting the fruits of their previous work to good use, the duo created this interactive sound installation with the prize money from an award they received at VIDA 13.2 last October. FALA is just one more reason we can’t wait to see Cantoni&Crescenti unveil a new work at The Creators Project: São Paulo 2012 next month.

Exhibited at Emoção Art.Ficial 6.0 at Itaú Cultural, FALA consists of 40 phones, which make up a system generating responses to words spoken by guests interacting with it. In Cantoni’s words:

The idea of FALA came up three years ago following this logic: picture a chorus of 40 speakers of different languages. In this chorus, two speak Portuguese, two English, two French, two Dutch, Norwegian, Catalan… Up to 20 pairs speaking 20 different languages. Each one listens to the others and construes what they hear from the perspective of their own language, since each one has a repertoire of each language's three thousand common words. Now imagine you can (via microphone) talk with those speakers. If you speak Portuguese, Portuguese-speaking gadgets will understand you and will look for synonyms to keep the conversation going. If you say "house," they may answer: “dwelling,” “abode,” “building,” etc.

FALA has a mechanism that generates crazy talk. It can get more complex as you imagine that a sound like the word "casa" ("house" in Portuguese) could generate other answers, as the program may also establish phonetic relations. In this case, "casa" may become "asa" (wing), or maybe another word in Russian, Dutch, Danish… As to us humans, we can observe the chat and contribute a word from time to time. The cool thing about it is that this mechanical speech based on synonyms, has no disagreements, and each one only talks when it's their turn!

If you speak Portuguese, check out this video of FALA.

Check out our mini documentary on Cantoni & Crescenti to find out more about their inventive installations.