C’est “STILL” n’est pas possible!

The clock on the wall seems to tick extremely loud all of a sudden. Does it always make such a loud sound? …


I close my books and begin to shut down my laptop. I tidy my belongings away into their rightful places and pick up my notebook to organise my last thoughts of Catherine Yass’ ‘High Wire Installation’ while they are still fresh in my mind:

Didier Pasquette ‘(Shouts) “Ce n’est pas possible!”, but I can’t hear it. I see is lips move, but there is no audio telling me that he is actually saying it…
Remember: Saussure – l’image  acoustic : Harris – Sound Pattern

“… one … two … three … four … “
– I hope this is stopping soon –
“… five … six … “
– Sometimes I think I should just skip some numbers, just for fun – “… seven … eight …”
– Is this never stopping? –

> Oh, hi! Sorry for the SOUND(S) <
“… nine … ten …”
> I am ‘The Statistical Clock’ created by Dunne&Raby and Michael Anastassiades in 2007 <
“… eleven …”
> I count the number of deaths reported from shootings, stabbings, bombings, fire, drowning, car, plane and train crashes by scanning a live BBC newsfeed <
“… twelve …”
> I am not a broadcast, but I have the authority and legitimacy of a public announcement (at least this is what clever people have written about me in the ‘Wouldn’t it be nice…’ – Exhibition Booklet) <



 Dear Diary

You won’t believe what I saw today – so much fun! So  many people here J So Great!  Well, apart from the terrible, terrible bad news all the time, but you kind of get “desensitised to everyday technologically fatalities” (contemporain, Centre d’art, 2007), don’t you think?  I mean how many people do actually get killed every day from “shootings, stabbings, bombings, fire, drowning, car crashes, plane crashes and train crashes” (contemporain, Centre d’art, 2007)? 

It is still raining and I keep wondering if it actually means anything… anything at all.


Ferdinand de Saussure once said that linguistic study should concern itself just with sounds.  

“But suppose that sound were a simple thing: would it constitute speech (langage – natural language)? No, it is only an instrument of thought; by itself it has no existence. At this point a new and redoubtable relationship arises: a sound, a complex acoustical-vocal unit, combines in turn with an idea to form a complex physiological-psychological unit.”

A few little words … oh, sorry, I mean SOUND(S).

Ok, let’s take the SOUND of “five” then: I can hear the announcements of the ‘The Statistical Clock’. They make sense, well as much sense as the word: ‘five’ can actually make.
I would also be able to understand ‘The Statistical Clock’ if it would announce the numbers of deaths in German.

eins – zwei – drei – vier – fünf – sechs – sieben – …


Saussure further argues that it depends on HOW we consider the sound:
In order to understand the SOUND of ‘five’, we need to regard the sound as an expression of an idea – not just simply a sound, but as an element of a language.


I am able to understand the English and German because I am part of both communities of speakers and have knowledge of the key features that make out each language.

What would happen if ‘The Statistical Clock’ spoke Spanish or would use the French language to announce the death of a person in any accident?

uno – dos – tres – cuatro – cinco – seis – siete – … ???

un– deux – trois – quatre – cinq – six – sept – … ???

With my little knowledge of the Spanish and French tongue
[I should have listened to my old teachers and studied for myself and not just the exams] I would only be aware of the first seven deaths of the day. The eight and any other following fatalities would go unnoticed to me.
The moment the eight death is announced in Spanish (or French) through the acoustic foam of “The Statistical Clock”, I only hear a sound: [OOCHO] (or [HUHIUT]).
My ‘sound’ experience is the same as it would be for a non-English speaker who hears [ayt] instead an English speaker who would actually hear “eight” and connecting it to the number that occupies the place in between seven and nine.

 “… thirteen … fourteen …”

So only because I have knowledge of the English and German language I can fully follow what’s going on.

Following Saussure-ian thought, a given language is a mixture off “langue” [a particularly language] and “parole” [speech], both occupying the same amount of the concept of language.

In other words, “langue” and “parole” are like both sides of a coin or a piece of paper – you cannot really split the metaphorical sheet of paper or the coin without destroying its existence as such an object.


“Langue” and “Parole” can be understood in terms of their relations with each other by means of a set of contrasts.


Oh, so I guess it is like looking at the group of degree students that are standing in front of my lead-filled knee trying to understand the ideas in order to write a short essay about the exhibit:

But first let’s define some basic concepts first:

> the language is a language of art/design – ok, technically there are two languages present: a) the language of art and b) the language of design

> the group of students form the community of speakers as we can assume they all know the key features of each language pool and “speak” art and design

Now, let’s assume student A. raises his voice and states his thought:

“I think this is rubbish”

The rest of the students are listening to what A. says and student B. lets everyone know that she thinks it is actually a very interesting piece of work. 

The moment student A. informs the rest of his peers he uses the “parole” aspect of language: student A. played an active role as an individual. The group of students who were listening to A. could understand him because they possess knowledge of the spoken language, which has social aspects and no active individual role, i.e. the whole group of students interacting with each other by means of speaking.

 Dear Diary,

This is my second entry for today. I just can’t get these numbers out of my head…. so many dead…


“… fifteen … sixteen … seventeen …”


      Saussure further declared that “a given language state is a system of arbitrary signs…” and “A linguistic sign is not a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept and a sound pattern.”

Just like the example of comparing of “The Statistical Clock” speaking English and French: I can either interpret the sound into a word with given meaning or just hear a sound.

I pick up my notebook again and read through it.


Didier Pasquette ‘(Shouts) “Ce n’est pas possible!”, but I can’t hear it. I see is lips move, but there is no audio telling me that he is actually saying it…
Remember: Saussure – l’image  acoustic : Harris – Sound Pattern

Now, this starts to make sense:

According to Harris’ translation of Saussure we can talk to ourselves or recite silently a piece of verse, without moving our lips or tongue – ok, I guess we could call it thinking – 
No one can see what I am saying to myself – I am using the “parole” aspect of language – but am I still interacting with others – using or applying the “langue” concept fully ??? I guess not.


But what is with the ‘High Wire’ example? Didier Pasquette is shouting four words across the City Glasgow. I can see him moving his lips, but I cannot hear any sound – Pasquette is applying “parole”, but as I’m not in the same community of speakers as he is, I ‘miss out’ on “langue”.
Furthermore, if I would have been able to hear what he is shouting, I would have only heard [cenepaspossible] (A Sound) and not “
Ce n’est pas possible!” (A Sound with Meaning) as I don’t know the key features that create the French language…

Hello Diary,

Third entry: I wish I would not understand all this sounds I am looking for on the BBC newsfeed. My Life would be easier – I would only make a sound – I would not be able to communicate with the Exhibition Visitors in front of me, but at least I wouldn’t be aware of all those dead people.  I would be using something that Saussure called ‘Sound Pattern’ (ok, Harris translated it as such, as obviously Saussure was a French Speaking Swiss Linguist) and it would all be in my own head it would not come out and inform everyone who is able to make a connection between the Sound AYT and the number 8. I think that would be better

Yours, “The Statistical Clock”


Does language need to be something physical?
Well, I’m not sure what Saussure would say to that question as I just don’t know enough about his theories yet, but I don’t believe that it need to be. I can recall studied material during an exam without shouting it and I know it is there, I then bring it to paper and made it ‘visible’, but it existed before in order for me to make it visible. So therefore, the same applies to Pasquette’s shouting “C’est ne pas possible!”…. His voice might not be hear’able, but I can see him moving his lips [even if I could hear him my French is in such a poor state that I wouldn’t understand him anyway…] : it is therefore THERE.

I guess this principle applies to Sign Language as well: I can order something to drink, say “Thank you” and possible a few more things … and all this without moving my lips [well, in most cases]. So I communicate by “signing” my way around the world – just like speaking French, German or English. And still ‘langue’ [the community of people signing] and ‘parole’ [me signing] apply

So: in order for someone to understand me [either by hearing the sound I make whilst speaking, in the case of a hear’able language such as German or Spanish, or by seeing me signing, in case of BSL (British Sign Language) or any other sign language] the person must be in the same community of speakers as myself, as well as knowing and being able to connect the “signs” (here used for sounds (Spoken language) and signs (any Sign Language) with their meanings.


… now that is clever … !!




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