Morse, Codes, 1998 (2006)
fluorescent tubes, five acrylic glass tubes, paint
each 120 x 62 cm
Berlin, conference area
(c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012; photo: Jörg Koopmann
Morse and Codes are a pair of installations that epitomise the work of artist Brigitte Kowanz (*1957 Vienna, AT), who engages with the subject of light in a multitude of ways. She perceives light as a physical phenomenon with a metaphysical aspect that can be communicated to equal effect with images and text. In Morse and Codes, Kowanz presents us with two sculptural arrangements in which horizontal neon tube lamps are mounted above one another to form a vertical light sculpture. At intervals, black sleeves of varying width block out the chalk-white colour emitted by the lamps, with the illuminated and black sections combining to produce a graphic pattern that spells out the title of each work in Morse code. This system, which was developed by Samuel Morse beginning in 1838 and encodes the alphabet and numerals from zero to nine using dots and dashes, i.e. short and long signals of an acoustic, visual or tactile nature, can also be employed to encode and decode speech. Brigitte Kowanz’s installation harks back to the pioneering discovery of artist and inventor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, one of the forefathers of electronic communication, and demonstrates that Morse code can also be signalled with light.