"hearsay," a tribute to Zend's life and work, by Norman White
November 11-12, 1985, A-Space Gallery, Toronto
The project builds on a text written by Robert Zend (published in From Zero to One, Mission, B.C.: Sono Nis Press, 1973, p. 61) :
THE MESSAGE (FOR MARSHALL MCLUHAN)
THE MESSENGER ARRIVED OUT OF BREATH. THE DANCERS STOPPED THEIR PIROUETTES, THE TORCHES LIGHTING UP THE PALACE WALLS FLICKERED FOR A MOMENT, THE HUBBUB AT THE BANQUET TABLE DIED DOWN, A ROASTED PIG’S NUCKLE FROZE IN MID-AIR IN A NOBLEMAN’S FINGERS, A GENERAL BEHIND THE PILLAR STOPPED FINGERING THE BOSOM OF THE MAID OF HONOUR. “WELL, WHAT IS IT, MAN?” ASKED THE KING, RISING REGALLY FROM HIS CHAIR. “WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? WHO SENT YOU? WHAT IS THE NEWS?” THEN AFTER A MOMENT, “ARE YOU WAITING FOR A REPLY? SPEAK UP MAN!” STILL SHORT OF BREATH, THE MESSENGER PULLED HIMSELF TOGETHER. HE LOOKED THE KING IN THE EYE AND GASPED: “YOUR MAJESTY, I AM NOT WAITING FOR A REPLY BECAUSE THERE IS NO MESSAGE BECAUSE NO ONE SENT ME. I JUST LIKE RUNNING.”
“hearsay” was an event based on the children’s game of “telephone” whereby a message – in this case, the text by Zend – is whispered from person to person and arrives back at its originator, usually hilariously garbled." Zend's text "was sent around the world in 24 hours, roughly following the sun, via a global computer network (I. P. Sharp Associates). Each of the eight participating centres was charged with translating the message into a different language before sending it on. The whole process was monitored at Toronto's A-Space."
The final version, translated into English, arrived in Toronto as the following:
THE DANCERS HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO DANCE, AND BURNING TORCHES WERE PLACED ON THE WALLS.
THE NOISY PARTY BECAME QUIET.
A ROASTING PIG TURNED OVER ON AN OPEN FLAME.
THE KING SAT CALMLY ON HIS FESTIVE CHAIR, HIS HAND ON A WOMAN’S BREAST.
IT APPEARED THAT HE WAS SITTING THROUGH A MARRIAGE CEREMONY.
THE KING ROSE FROM HIS SEAT AND ASKED THE MESSENGER WHAT IS TAKING PLACE AND WHY IS HE THERE? AND HE WANTED AN ANSWER.
THE MESSENGER, STILL PANTING, LOOKED AT THE KING AND REPLIED:
YOUR MAJESTY, THERE IS NO NEED FOR AN ANSWER. AFTER ALL,
NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. NO ONE SENT ME. I RISE ABOVE EVERYTHING.
Summary by Lori Emerson, in "from typewriters to telematics, media noise in Robert Zend," posted on loriemerson.net, January 6 2014. Lori Emerson is an Assistant Professor in the at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Director of the Media Archaeology Lab.