“The Peace Engine: an Acoustic Symbol” is an installation to be placed in the Peace Palace in The Hague; it invites people to evaluate the concept of peace by challenging the symbols that currently represent it.
The critique intends to point out the unsuitability of these symbols in that they lack one (or both) of the two fundamental characteristics of complexity and neutrality: The so called “CND sign” for instance, although internationally recognized, is more interpretable as an anti-war symbol; it lacks the characteristic of complexity as the concept of peace is far more elaborate than the mere absence of armed conflicts.
Complex peace symbols like the National Gifts lack neutrality as the key to their interpretation lies in specific cultural traditions.
“The Peace Engine: an Acoustic Symbol” is an attempt to design a new symbol of peace that bears the necessary level of complexity of meaning as well as- by maintaining as much distance from culture as possible- of universal communication.\
Given these two premises, the option of working with visual communication seems unlikely, as even the most basic visual elements possess multiple and sometimes conflicting symbolic interpretations. Sound, on the other hand, appears to be notably less culturally “polluted” thanks to its abstract nature.
Inspired by contraptions such as the analytical engine (which combine human and machine-perfect efforts) the installation is composed of three sections: Input (subjective peace), the Peace Algorithm (mediation, justice) and Output (peace symbol).
The first section is the Input: it is a dome where the visitors of the Peace Palace can choose to give their personal acoustic interpretation of peace into by singing, humming or speaking.
The signal is picked up by a microphone and then transferred and processed by the Peace Algorithm (the “brain” of the installation which is placed in-between Input and Output).
It has two functions: firstly it acts as a neutral mediator by translating the subjective inputs into a universal language (a series of pitches which selection is based on the physics of sound rather than a traditional music scale); secondly, it resolves conflicts.
It does so by evaluating the “needs” (frequency, amplitude and rhythm) of the conflicting parts (the inputs recorded by the previous visitors and the newly entered one) and finding a fair, efficient and non-violent solution to achieve a new equilibrium.
The last section outputs the generated piece: the acoustic symbol of peace.
By questioning the role of culture and objectivity “The Peace Engine: an Acoustic Symbol” discusses the complexity of the concept of Peace which is both personal and relational, ensures participation and conflict resolution and it’s inseparably tied to the concept of Justice.