Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Experimenting with The 10 Commandments

Negating the 10 Commandments through several experiments amplifying the misunderstanding and distancing of language from the communicators.

As a writer, language is important to me but it's development and misunderstandings have always been of interest. The bible is the most widely alluded to piece of literature in western culture and is the most vastly misunderstood as well. So I wanted to explore different methods of voiding, distancing or confusing the bible in order to point to the idea that not only is misunderstanding a inevitable part of communication but it can also be beautiful.

Blind Commandments and Fire Commandments

Braille has always been fascinating because it's a translation in the same language. It's beautiful but that's not the purpose. I learned to read (by sight) so I actually found the section in the bible that has the 10 Commandments.

Laminated 10 Commandments

Braille on the left, laminated on the right

It seemed obvious that negating the 10 Commandments in braille would come in the form of lamination but I became obsessed with braille. I wanted to elaborate the visual aspects of braille and I wanted to some how come up with a way to put my own words over the braille but writing in English was not enough. I decided to locate the letters on the pages and used the synesthesia alphabet color codes to paint the letters that would form my words. I also wanted more conceptual interpretation.

The Bookshelf Spits

a blaze of blue and red and orange.

I scream in skin-scented sentences
nouns and verbs in vivid hues.

The TV becomes and inferno

whispering infomercials up my nose.

Echoes of soot and gold smoke smears

fill the kitchen corner with me.

What color will I become in my own fire?

I decided put this poem over the bible because of its subject matter. The idea of burning in our own fire is a translation of many of the bible's stories.

theworstpictureblogever.blogspot.com for more detailed pictures of the poem.

Say what Commandments

One of the most important aspects of language is listening and it's the avenue in communication that creates the most misunderstanding.
I had a few of my ESL students read the 10 Commandments and because they're from Korea and China they are not used to R and L sounds, V, B, F, Th, and S can also confuse words.
This was one of my favorite experiments because it encouraged actual communication about the 10 Commandments.

I recorded their readings analog and uploaded it to soundcloud

Silent and Binded Commandments

By binding the signer's fingers many of the crucial words in the 10 Commandments are untranslatable. This experiment proved how simple restrictions can create even deeper translation issues.

Sound-It-Out Commandments

Learning to spell is a developmental milestone for children and often the first step is a method called "sound-it-out-spelling," which is when they listen to the pronunciation and then spell it out. I had a 6-year-old girl spell out the 10 Commandments to the best of her ability. My personal favorites are 5 and 6.

To further explore the idea of confusing the 10 Commandments through a child's eye, I made the children's game, "Your 10 Commandments."