“For a long time I would to go to bed early”

A la recherche du temps perdu / In Search Of Lost Time is a performance by Karl Heinz Jeron and Valie Djordjevic.

Using the electronic versions of the first three parts of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece from Project Gutenberg, the performers in white coats are reading the machine-code version of the novel. The text is first deconstructed into its individual parts – the letter and characters – which in turn are decoded into the Ascii-code. Each letter is represented by an individual sequence of eight zeros and ones: for example the sequence “01000001â€? refers to the letter A.


In a mock laboratory, one performer is reading the zeros, the second person reads the ones. A third person embodies the CPU (the Central Processing Unit): she interprets the zeros and ones with the aid of an ASCII allocation table, cuts out the corresponding letter from the prepared sheets and turns it over to a fourth performer, Display, who sticks it onto the wall panel where the previous text is collected. Mistakes made by the actors are not corrected, they form an integral part of the performance.

To read out one page of the novel takes about seven performance day – providing the duration of the performance is about 7 to 8 hours. The whole novel cycle has more than 4000 pages (depending on the edition).

Now this is my idea of a great project. La Recherche du Temps Perdu used to be my favourite book. I read parts of it over and over again. That was such a long time ago and i’m really happy that some people out there have found a way to catapult classical French literature into the cheerful realm of new media art.

Photo: Martin Howse from the images of the performance in London.

Related: VSSTV – Very Slow Scan Television.