Okno

an installation for
rusted photographs, works
on paper, and sound

1999 - 2001

The Okno series has exbihited at Eyedrum
in Atlanta, Georgia (shown here) and at the
Fugitive Art Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

click on images for details
For reasons undisclosed to the public, “Okno” - translated as window from a host of Slavic languages - is an announcement code for a subset of anonymous shortwave radio transmissions. These broadcasts, generally referred to as Numbers Stations, consist of mechanized voices reciting encrypted messages using numbers and occasionally letters as their language. Although no organization or government institution has claimed responsibility for these transmissions, Numbers Stations are presumed to originate from intelligence agencies around the globe. The “Okno” broadcasts are believed to belong to the Czech Statni Bezpecnost - the CIA of the Czech Republic.

I have chosen Okno as the title for this proposed installation as it links two themes which weave through my work: the aforementioned Numbers Stations and the metaphors of skin. Following Didier Anzieu’s dissertation The Skin Ego, I posit that skin is the final border both into and out of the body. It is a physical colander which allows and denies access to the interior of the body unwittingly collects the residues of psychological and environmental weathering. Our skins display the history of a lifetime of mistakes, bruises, stretch marks, and scars.

Okno will assimilate these two themes within three separate but interrelated bodies of work. The first of which is a series of seven ‘shrouds,’ each a life-sized contour of a human figure constructed out of rusted numbers on thick watercolor paper. After applying chemical accelerants to antique letter press blocks, I have placed these blocks onto the paper. The resulting rusted residue of repeating numbers series are transcriptions from Numbers Stations. Furthermore, the paper itself has been torn apart into rectangular shapes and sutured back together with dental floss. These ‘shrouds’ with their undulating texture, rough sewing, and stained body shapes, recall the death shrouds of antiquity.

The second body of work for Okno is a series of photographs, created with the same technique of applying rust numbers onto the photographic paper. The subjects of the photographs present possible origins of Numbers Stations, from ominous institutional spaces to recognizable sites of radio transmissions. I have used high-speed film and high contrast filters while developing these photographs, mimicking the stark display of information used in forensic investigations.

The final link in Okno is a low volume sound collage involving recordings of Numbers Stations and an electro-acoustic series of low creaking drones topped with striations of textural noise. I have broadcast this collage through a network of speakers, utilizing the two channels of basic stereo equipment to isolate and intermingle the sounds at various positions throughout the space. This network of speakers will be constructed from the skeletal cones of deconstructed commercial speakers connected by thick black speaker wire.

In conclusion, Okno emerges as a system of intertwined metaphors, installative elements, and materials; presenting a mass of potential sites of meaning. In a current context of visual culture, objects can no longer be fixed with blanket didactic statements; rather meaning is plotted through trajectories of multiple interpretations. Okno certainly fits within this relativist domain, as narratives are birthed from the work with may include the abject (the body rejecting that which it sees as unclean, impure, or unworthy), the forensic (the installation as crime scene, a presentation of evidence within a decontextualized investigation), the gothic (the aestheticized presentation of blood spilled from the body in the wake of shadowy machinations), or better yet, some mutation in between.

Jim Haynes - 2001