Public Intervention 2022

Custom LED matrix sign


When the typical clear and commanding language of an electronic sign is glitched and cannot be fully understood, it is a bit spooky. The message is interrupted. Why? How? Who is communicating with you and what are they really trying to say?

The hallways of MIT are covered with signs, both regular and electronic that display the building numbers of the various buildings on campus in the format "Entering [building number]." By the entrance to building 26, I installed a sign that looks like it's supposed to say ENTERING 26 but something is wrong.

The letters on the sign aren't all English. They aren't from a known language. They are glyphs generated by a StyleGAN trained on a dataset of characters from various languages. It's what the algorithm understands of the marks and symbols that we have decided mean something. The generated glyphs were then picked, scaled down to the 5x7 dot resolution of the sign, and arranged into the message on the sign carefully and intentionally by me but obscured by our familiarity with glitched electronic signs.

When I was installing the sign, a janitor passing by asked me if it's in another language. I said yes. The sign is still there as of December 2022.