Murmur Study / Christopher Baker

Presented by ZERO1. Created by Christopher Baker with assistance from Márton András Juhász

Murmur Study (2009) is an art installation that examines the rise of micro-messaging technologies such as Twitter and Facebook’s status updates. One might describe these messages as a type of digital small talk. But unlike face to face conversations, these fleeting thoughts are accumulated, archived and digitally indexed by corporations, governments and research institutions. While the long-term impact of these archives remains to be seen, the sheer volume of publicly accessible, personal, and often emotional expressions should give us pause. Murmur Study is comprised of a variable number of thermal receipt printers that continuously monitor Twitter for new messages containing variations on common emotional utterances. Messages containing hundreds of variations on words such as argh, meh, grrrr, oooo, ewww, and hmph are printed on an endless waterfall of receipt paper that accumulates in tangled piles on the floor. The monumental form of the sculpture is intended to physically represent the otherwise invisible deluge of digital small talk flowing from Twitter. The current iteration of Murmur Study is built with Epson TM-T20 printers connected to USB 2.0 hubs via Serial to USB Converters. A single computer running drives the printers via USB and runs the Murmur Study control software. The Murmur Study control software was written in Java and takes advantage of Processing for simple serial and Internet connectivity. The control software accesses the Twitter Search API using the search terms defined for each printer. Each individual printer prints the search results for variations on a single word (e.g. argh OR arrgh OR arrrgh OR arrrrgh) on BPA-free thermal receipt paper. During normal operation, the printing is speed-limited to conserve paper. After exhibition, the resulting paper piles are recycled or reused in future exhibitions.

This project is presented as part of the exhibition
Seeking Silicon Valley at the ZERO1 Garage 
September 12-December 8, 2012
Admission is free

Christopher Baker

lives and works in Chicago, IL

Artist website


Christopher Baker is an artist whose work engages the rich collection of social, technological and ideological networks present in the urban landscape. He creates artifacts and situations that reveal and generate relationships within and between these networks. Christopher’s work has been presented in festivals, galleries and museums internationally including The Pace Gallery and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York; the Saatchi Gallery in London; Laboral in Gijon, Spain; Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina in Florence, Italy and Alta Technologia Andina in Lima, Peru. Christopher’s work has been published and reviewed widely, recently appearing in Sculpture Magazine, and the critically acclaimed Data Flow: Visualising Information in Graphic Design series. Since completing a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Media Arts at the University of Minnesota, Baker has held visiting artist positions at Kitchen Budapest, an experimental media lab in Hungary, and Minneapolis college of Art and Design. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art and Technology Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.