The Enigmatic Message


In 1964 a team of sound recordists were sent to tape a community of chimpanzees as pre-production research for The Dawn of Man sequence which opens Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A large box containing the resulting reel-to-reel tapes is now housed in the archive of Kubrick’s work. Some of the tapes are annotated. Some are not. Even with the clues the indexicality of the archive offers, even before the tapes are played, the tapes themselves are enigmatic objects.

What message do they transmit? How do we make sense? This project is about the act of translation, about how we apply our individual human skills to the making of meaning. Participants are invited to sit down, concentrate, tune in to their sense-making powers and contrubute a translation to this ongoing project. The installation was created for the Beyond 2001 exhibition, 2018, in celebration of the fifty year anniversary of the release of 2001.

To accompany the installation an artist' book was created. The Enigmatic Message contains translations by Ali Smith, Bridget Hannigan, Eileen Myles, Ian Patterson, Idit Elia Nathan, Joanne Macleod, Kathleen Bryson, Laurie Anderson, Lucy Harris, Lydia Davis, Meg Jamieson, Olivia Laing, Sharon Kivland, Woodrow Phoenix along with bespoke chimp translation essays. You can buy a copy here.