Charles Sandison

1911, 2006

Charles Sandison
Dimensions and medium
Computered data projected on a flat screen, 3/5, 104 × 67.2 × 12.5 cm
Gift of Lilian and Billy Mauer
Artwork description
Charles Sandison’s 1911 is a computer-generated work that is programmed to generate all 44 million words and numbers contained in the 11th edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” published in 1911. Presented on a flat-screen monitor, the program follows an algorithm developed by the artist that mimics the movement of birds vying for space on a wire. Entering in a continuous stream, the words appear on the screen—which corresponds to a single page of content—and float above the text until they find a space to land. As each word comes to rest, others shift aside or take flight to make more room. Filing past at quick, rhythmic speeds, the words and numbers appear on screen in the same sequence they were entered from the encyclopedia, and reorganize themselves in a non-sequential, incomprehensible order. A hint of meaning occurs when words from the same subject appear together, but the blurring of the words in motion leave a generally fragmented impression. Sandison’s piece poetically evokes the frenetic rhythm of modern life, and presents a broader look at the act of reading, time and history as a collection of volatile fragments.

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