Variablemedia Press Release 13
For Immediate Release 19th August 2004


by Edward Dorrian.

Starts 19th August 2004 at
Further information at

Variablemedia is pleased to announce it's latest residency
"MENE, TEKEL, PERES. W." by the artist, Edward Dorrian.
Starting 19th of August 2004, this eight week project will be updated regularly at

"MENE, TEKEL, PERES. W." makes apparent Dorrian’s continued interest in technological re-interpretations of found or incidental material. As in some of his earlier works, he focuses on chance events or findings, transforming these by using an external set of rules or structures. In this project, the raw material he uses has been in his possession for some time. As Dorrian tells us:

"In 1988 Hugh and I moved into a flat on Warwick Road in Earls Court, London. Two rooms that, according to the agent, were 'not fit for a dog'. We were being leased them cheaply for a year, while the new owners decided what to do with it. We tossed a coin to decide who got the better room. I lost. Mine had originally been a single room. Now it was divided into two narrow bedsits with a plasterboard corridor, which took you past the first space into the second. Rubbish and personal effects lay strewn across the floors. In amongst the crap, was a long hand written letter, by a woman, to the previous occupant of the flat…"

During his residency at, Dorrian will translate this letter into a series of musical elements using the audio composition and editing software, Garage Band. He has divided the text into eight 'books', corresponding to the number of pages in the letter. The books are then subdivided into 'etudes', which are groups of three words. Etudes are then split into individual letters. Every letter is treated uniquely, 'drawn' within Garage Band and subsequently divided into two piano parts for left-hand and right-hand. A different octave range is set for each hand’s part. A graphic of each letter is combined with it’s musical counterpart as a one flash file. On the site each file is presented as one page and linked to others to reproduce an etude. Over the eight week period etudes will be added and earlier ones replaced. The text available at any one time may appear fragmented, lost and forgotten.

"MENE, TEKEL, PERES. W." makes allusions to avant-garde notions of musical composition, in particular American composer and artist John Cage's use of chance operations to determine how a piece should be written and played (e.g. "Etude Australes") and Olivier Messiaen's playful experiments in creating a communicable musical language (e.g. "Ce qui est écrit sur les étoiles"*).

"Here, [in Ce qui est écrit sur les étoiles] I made reference to the three terrible words of the prophet Daniel that are recorded in the Bible during his account of the feast of Belshazzar. The three words are 'mene, tekel, peres,' words that have come to mean 'numbered, weighed, divided.' It's a sort of curse. 'Thy days are numbered, thy merits are weighed, thy kingdom shall be divided.' King Belshazzer saw a hand writing these words on a wall. The next night he was killed and his kingdom divided between the Medes and the Persians. I've imagined these words written in the stars to signify the order of the world, on which philosophers have written so much. Even for non-believers, the movement of the stars and their placement in the universe reflect an in explicable order, if not a supreme being who has conceived everything. I've summed up this 'putting in order' by these three words: numbered, weighed, divided."
Olivier Messiaen in conversation with Claude Samuel in Olivier Messiaen Music and Color translated by E.Thomas, Glasow Amadeus Press, 1994.

Dorrian is an artist and curator based in London. He has exhibited across the UK and Europe. Previous exhibitions include "Estate" (Howden House, Scotland); "Resolute" (Platform, London); "On Boredom" (ICA, London); "United in Death" (Cambridge Darkroom, Cambridge). This is his second project for Variablemedia; his first was a collaboration with Sally Morfill called "My Voice in Your Head".