Presented online and in person at spaces like Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum and the Museum of the City of New York, the artwork features audio recordings of 100 individuals counting from 1 to 100 in a variety of languages, accompanied by a transcription in white lettering on a black screen. Localized versions reflect the linguistic landscapes of New York City, St. Louis, Houston, Omaha, and Ogden, Utah, as well as the US overall. A sign language version is also in the works.
Most of the voices are those of people who called in to record themselves. The Poetic Justice team then built an algorithm that “selects and weights languages that are the least recorded so that you hear them more frequently,” says Ijeoma. The video changes over time as new recordings are added.
“A Counting” is the latest in a string of artworks that leverage Ijeoma’s background in information technology to translate cold data into something laden with feeling. “I want to create a contemporary portrait. What better way to do it [than] with contemporary tools and techniques—those of data analysis and data visualization—not in a way that’s literal, but poetic?” he says.