CAM invites people across the city to share their voice and demonstrate the diversity of languages spoken by those who live here. St. Louis joins the expanding roster of cities to participate in A Counting, the first project by Ekene Ijeoma’s Poetic Justice group at MIT Media Lab.
Conceived as an ongoing series, the generative sound and video work features St. Louisans counting to 100 in their language(s) and accent(s). Locals are invited to call a hotline and listen or participate by counting aloud. The collection of calls is then remixed, so a different voice and language speaks each number. As a “language acknowledgment,” the number 1 is always spoken in a language Indigenous to the region of each city, when available. In St. Louis, for example, that would include Chickasaw, Illini, Ioway, Otoe-Missouria, Osage, Quapaw, Sac & Fox, and Shawnee languages and dialects. Every participant who shares their name, from callers to transcribers, is credited in the video and on the website.
“A Counting creates space for all languages and accents to coexist,” says Ijeoma. As more St. Louisans contribute their voices, a sound portrait of the city emerges, one that encompasses many accents, dialects, and languages. “A Counting serves as a meditation and speculation of what a unified society could sound like.”