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Part of Face Value

Places of Articulation: Five Obstructions

Effi & Amir

(Belgium)
2020, mixed media installation, duration 22 minutes

Are voices the new target of border control? Places of Articulation: Five Obstructions is a video installation that addresses automatic dialect detection. Based on an analysis of a person’s voice and mouth movements, speech recognition tools can detect what region someone comes from. The German immigration authority has been using this detection tool during asylum procedures since 2018. Places of Articulation: Five Obstructions explores how this technology uses the voice as a new border. The installation reveals how voice recognition is marked by structures inclusion and exclusion.

Places of Articulation: Five Obstructions presents five stories about the political, embodied and sonic dimensions of the voice. While the individuals recount their stories, machines analyse, measure and visualise their voices. In the interactive part of the installation you can watch a visualisation of your own voice. Places of Articulation: Five Obstructions references the biblical term shibboleth, meaning a ‘word of recognition’ used to determine to what group someone belongs, based on its pronunciation. Current European asylum procedures incorporate this shibboleth mechanism, turning the voice into a target of state surveillance.

The illustrations are taken from a manual published by the German immigration authorities (BAMF) for their employees dealing with asylum requests.

 


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