She Who Loves Silence
She Who Loves Silence examines the relationships between language, technicity, and the mythologies created by the interactions between them. Drawing from an exhaustive research practice that encompasses archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, sociology and neuroscience, Derat presents a selection of new works that seek to understand how our modern relationship to tools and tool-making practices informs almost every aspect of who we are and how we relate to one another. As the modern technological paradigm accelerates and the tools that define daily life become more obscure, Derat looks to examples from the past—as well as to key scholars seeking to understand the origins and functions of technicity as they relate to human nature—to show how these changes fundamentally alter both the organization of society and core human ontology.
For this exhibition, Derat has created a series of large-scale rubber panels developing a non-linear language and narrative referencing egyptology, neurosciences, digital technology and popular culture, alongside a digital video installation (Rites The Number, 2019) that relies upon a real-time use of the Google Translate tool applied to cuneiform writing. In the center of the gallery, an experimental sound installation work (Gymnopaedia Exercise Number 1) relates a real-time collaboration between Derat and an artificial intelligence entity as they co-produce an auditory experience: the artist having routed the machine learnt system to sing, listen and autonomously respond to itself in an endless feedback loop.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from Egyptian mythology. “She Who Loves Silence” refers to the goddess Meretseger, a guardian of the Theban Necropolis Valley of the Kings who watches over ‘silent’ cemeteries and crypts. Meretseger was both feared for her wrathfulness and worshipped for her kindness. The goddess was believed to strike down those who displeased her or committed sacrilege to a burial site with blindness, while healing or bestowing blessings upon those who repented to her.
Many of the ideas presented in She Who Loves Silence stem from scholarship produced by French scholar André Leroi-Gourhan. In Le geste et la parole (1964-65), Leroi-Gourhan presents an approach to understanding the origins of language. Going back to early hominid evolution, Leroi-Gourhan explains how neurological function developed in tandem with the development of tools. In Deep Dive (2019), Derat reproduces a diagram created by Leroi-Gourhan which attempts to demonstrate this relationship. Looking closely at the anatomy and development of the brain, he shows how the areas of the brain that control motor function are intimately connected to those areas related to the execution and understanding of both visual and auditory languages, ultimately arguing that tool-making and producing are inherently linked to the conception and development of language and communication.
In light of Leroi-Gourhan’s theories, the goddess Meretseger emerges as the personification of technicity. Worshipped by builders—the makers and users of tools—Meretseger possesses the capability to bestow or take away one’s capacity for communication. Derat uses these ideas as a vector to talk about modern technology, and the role of the maker in contemporary society. When the neurological connection between the architecture of the brain and tool-making and usage are so intimately linked, what does it mean to bow down to full automation and give labour away in the form of crowdsourced development or more crudely in the form of likes, views and comments? Humanity, on an evolutionary scale, may be irrevocably altered by our choice, wittingly or not, to provide this labour to the hungry machine birthed from our own technicity.
Wade Wallerstein, June 2019