Debuted by Lille-based artist Mathilde Lavenne at the “Panorama 18” exhibition at Le Fresnoy in late 2016, Artefact#0, Digital Necrophony is a mechanical and software meditation on (or mediation of) the digital afterlife. Inspired by American inventor Thomas Edison’s eighteenth century necrophone (a ‘spirit phone’ purported to record the voices of the dead), the project proposes that rather than bury or cremate the body of the deceased, that that individual is instead memorialized by encoding their data into the surface of a marble cylinder. Unlike a decomposing corpse stored in a coffin, this preservation format lasts indefinitely; it can also be played back – gramophone style – enacting a transmigration from lived experience into audiovisual signal.
In her statement for “Panorama 18” Lavenne describes Digital Necrophony as offering a “a critical look at the way the digital era has revolutionised our relation to matter and to nature.” A view that “is sublimated and reflected by a black marble monolith which is isolated and studied as if it were a sarcophagus.” Her referencing of Egyptian funerary customs should be noted as the solemness of her installation evokes a similar sense of majesty and (seeming) command over what lies beyond this realm.
Lavenne drew on the expertise of N O R M A L S to aid in the product design and visuals programming that shaped and communicated the intent of the installation (note the project teaser video below, which has their fingerprints all over it), Etienne Landon handled physical computing (the apparatus was controlled by an Arduino), and Daniel Cabanzo contributed the sound design.