Brendan Howell

The Black Chamber

A paranoid archive

Installation View of the Black Chamber

The Cabinet Noir was the name given in France for the secret office where the post of suspected persons was opened and inspected before being forwarded to its final recipient. Governments since have used similar Black Chambers to spy on their populations communication via telegraph, telephone and internet media. In order to avoid detection, some individuals have resorted to the technique of Steganography, where communications are hidden in seemingly innocent messages. This can lead to a state of paranoia on the part of the agent or outside observer, where every text may contain evidence of nefarious intentions.

Detail View of the Black Chamber

This work takes the private (and potentially embarassing) email exchange and data produced for the WEISE7 Labor exhibition and mixes it with the text of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective story ‘The Purloined Letter’. The result is a paranoid archive of implied subtext.

Some Texts:

The software that synthesized the texts of the archive was written in Python and used techniques such as Markov Chains and Natural Language Processing. The software is free (GPL-3) and is available here.