'Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive' underlines the possibility of digital memory & ceremony

Harry Yeff and Trung Bao, in the age of post-internet art, with their immersive exhibition Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive led experimental ways to archive voices.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Oct 16, 2022

Harry Yeff and Trung Bao open an immersive exhibition Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive across the interior and exterior of W1 Curates, London presented by W1 Immersive. The exhibition is a collection of the distinct and vulnerable voices ever available on the planet Earth that have been preserved as individual gemstones. These voices indicate the message of amorous, mortality, hope and legacy. The wall-to-wall digital gemstone artworks from a much sought-after selection of the Voice Gems archive, along with the public digital display across the façade of the three floors of bespoke LED screens are part of this immersive exhibition. 

Closer view, VOICE GEMS at W1 Immersive, 2022, Digital Projection | Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive | STIRworld
Closer view, VOICE GEMS at W1 Immersive, 2022, Digital Projection Image: Courtesy of W1 Curates

Harry Yeff is a London-born neuro-divergent artist and technologist. Known as a pioneer in a new wave of voice and technology-focused experimentation. For more than fifteen years now Harry Yeff (Reeps100) has been visualising the human voice. His performative installations and machine-like vocal control have garnered attention far and wide globally. Trung Bao Nguyen is a Vietnam origin, multidisciplinary artist and founder of the creative collective Fustic. Studio. From the intersection of art and technology, sound and image, Nguyen has created a narrative to explore the human voice with creative technology and design.

Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection | Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive | STIRworld
Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection Image: Courtesy of W1 Curates

In an interview with STIR, Yeff describes the idea of digital art installations in the form of gemstones, “The very first Voice Gem was generated from the laughter between lovers and used to replace a physical diamond for a proposal. I have been designing systems to visualise voice for over ten years to explore the experiential potential of voice outside of language and music. Every voice on Earth is unique and rarer than any jewel, so all large-scale installations and artwork are driven by voice data as a medium highlighting these themes. My collaborator Trung Bao and I believe digital can be spiritual. Using laughter between lovers, the vocal memories of loved ones passed or messages, kept for 1000 years, explore the potential for new digital ceremonies. All voices are jewels, now I use them to generate gemstones.” 

Harry Yeff Speaking at Davos  | Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive | STIRworld
Harry Yeff Speaking at Davos Image: Courtesy of World Economic Forum and Ciaran McCrickard

To scale up the original project, the duo has begun producing collaborative Voice Gems collections, “manifesting as large-scale new-media, lab-grown physical pieces, installations, and sculptures”. The pieces are displayed as digital video, high-resolution stills, large-scale projection, NFTs, and 3D sculpture public art installations. Voice Gems also showcases a physical lab-grown gem The Everlasting Memory for the first time. It was produced in collaboration with football player Sir Geoff Hurst, the first man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. The voice gem by Hurst is a personal recording, recalling the event. Moreover, the visitors could listen to the immortalised voices that produced the unique gemstone sculptures via QR codes as well.

Sir Geoff Hurst World Cup Memory Voice Gem, Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection | Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive | STIRworld
Sir Geoff Hurst World Cup Memory Voice Gem, Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection Image: Courtesy of W1 Curates

Since every voice is distinct it irrevocably leads to a unique fingerprint-like meta-data. It is further deployed for a bespoke and human-centred generative design. Additionally, the archive also collects vocal phenomena and the voices of critically endangered species, only to further expand them to AI synthetic voices. Towards this end, the large-scale installations interestingly draw attention to the ecology and fauna in an effort to draw expand the notion of vocal communication, “Alongside human voices we have generated precious digital objects from the voices of critically endangered species, AI voices to be highlighted and preserved. We can explore poetically what is the voice of nature or the future voices of machines as objects that can be exhibited as spectacles. Voices are normally like smoke, but using the bespoke 200000-particle system we have designed a new way to tell and highlight a story. What is the voice of the Congo, of the Arctic or New York and what sculpture or artwork can these ‘voices’ generate without a system? We will continue to generate collections that help us think about these themes in new ways.” 

Felipe Pantone Voice Gem, Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection | Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive | STIRworld
Felipe Pantone Voice Gem, Endangered Brown Slate Voice Gem, 2022, Digital Projection Image: Courtesy of W1 Curates

The immersive experience integral to the installations for the makers is the new way of narrating the story. When traditional media is seen as an art of the past, “The new media spaces have the chance to open minds and hold attention in a way that is very important for the times,” says Yeff. In times of spiral-bound changes whether political or cultural such technologies are, “so desperately needed,” adds the sound artist.

Father and Daughter, Video Installation Video: Ben Waugh

There are close to twenty contributors to the archive 2021- 2022 namely Ai Weiwei, Dr. Jane Goodall, Will.i.am, Sir Geoff Hurst, Herbert W. Franke, Felipe Pantone, Sougwen Chung, Reggie Watts, Kenny Schachter, Lily Cole, Aitor Throup, Klaus Schwab, Platon, Justin Aversano, Johann König, Jesse Damiani, Nancy Baker Cahill, Dejha Ti and Ania Catherine and more. The institutional collaborators for this task are The World Economic Forum, Messages of Hope collection, Koenig Gallery, Francisco Carolinum Linz, Ben Mirin of National Geographic and The Berggruen Institute.

The digital can manifest spiritual value. “We can preserve things in new ways and the world will be filled with the digital ceremony. I want the viewer to think about what their voice may look like as a stone, and if they could preserve their voice as an object for 1000 years,” Yeff concludes the interview with this food for thought.  

The exhibition Voice Gems: 1000 Year Archive is on view at W1 Immersive, London until September 26, 2022.

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