Close-up photograph of Linear X mark. 20" x 14".
What if insects could not only think but write? This provocatively naïve question guides the installation Decipherment of Linear X , in which the tracks carved into tree-trunks by bark beetles are compared to the syllabary of Linear B, one of the earliest known written languages.
Following the famous decipherment of Linear B in 1953, this thought-experiment isolates both the "texts" and "characters" of the putative Linear X. Rolling the sticks like cylinder seals across white clay yields intricate relief patterns, while close-up photographs isolate individual "symbols."
This project is an inquiry into animal intelligence and the origins of thought.
The project includes a journal featuring articles by linguists, artificial intelligence experts, historians, poets, and others responding to the Linear X inscriptions and the question of whether they constitute a language. Commissioned contributions by Anne Carson, Alexander Marshack, Frances Richard, Michael Ryan, David Serlin, Luc Steels and Marina Warner. Also included are essays by Jorge Luis Borges and Charles Darwin.