Video loop - 73 mn

In Un code télégraphique du portrait parlé, Swiss forensic scientist Rudolph Archibald Reiss transcribed into decimal code the physiognomic characteristics defined by Bertillon in his “spoken portraits,” thus anticipating, in 1907, the binary coding used in computer programming and its impenetrable complexity. Reiss’s goal was to save on the cost of the telegrams sent by the police to describe suspects and to establish an international standard for identity databases, as numerical codes were not subject to language barriers.

On the Web site, the original French-language text is read and “spoken” by an American robot, which makes it totally incomprehensible. Visitors are thus caught up in an oppressive verbal flux but easily understand that it is formed of coded data. After all, they can always consult the page being read, which is displayed on a screen in the gallery.

This video has been specially created for the Month of Photography in Montreal as part of the monographic exhibition, « Tous décavés » which was questioning the registration of citizens through the use of web and new technologies.