Public Art Heritage College

The Condition of Rosetta Stones

C.E.G.E.P.  Heritage College, Gatineau, Quebéc
Commission: Politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture, Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Quebec.

This project deals with the discovery and use of knowledge. Combining imagery from cosmic, human, genetic and computer realms, the art questions the idea of learning and the impact of new information on personal and collective futures.
Considering the diverse site users at Heritage College, possible interpretations of the art may touch upon identity, literature, black holes, biometrics, print-making or color theory.

A spectral DNA strand on the right side flows out of two other spiraling forms; a galaxy composed of the Western alphabet hovers above a giant fingerprint, whose margins metamorphose into binary code.
The art’s elements are all code carriers, information-filled patterns or systems for “knowing”.  Their spinning nature and structural similarities recall the fundamental interconnection of all things on and around this planet.
Human intervention into one domain can revolutionize another. These code carriers may be seen as contemporary Rosetta Stones. In deciphering their codes, phenomenal information is unleashed. For instance: spectral patterns reveal chemical information about distant planets as well as functioning like “fingerprints of atoms, as unique as DNA” (K.C.Cole).
While fingerprints symbolize the mark of human presence, the research, development and implementation of fingerprint pattern-recognition systems are causing a major human rights controversy.
Genetic research advances medicine, and law, while some seek profit in the ownership of particular genetic maps. So, codes not only convey data, they expose a range of attitudes around human interaction, technological manipulation and sustainability.
The art invites the students, staff and public to consider these concepts and questions of human impact on our world; impact on communities that extend from inner cells to outer space; questions about the part humans play in the dramas of acquiring and using knowledge.

K.C Cole, The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.
Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Bach and Escher: an Eternal Golden Braid, Random House, 1979.
Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, Viking Press. 1974

Rosetta Stones: Scientific, Aesthetic and Philosophical Information

According to Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, the Rosetta stone was one of history’s most important discoveries. Hofstadter, discusses the Rosetta stone, the key to deciphering previously incomprehensible hieroglyphs, to explain the different levels of information in any message and how we go about decoding them. In the process of /sequences of making meaning, understanding the information-bearing codes is only one aspect. The ultimate meaning is made when the new information is matched to an established knowledge system, applied to a context or read within a wider environment. It is also interesting to note that Hofstadter refers to the message-bearing codes of DNA, at some length, as he discusses the critical relationships between the part to the [context] whole.