Olivier Arcioli

Forty Five Symbols From the »Phaistos Disc« to Global Language — A Cross-Cultural Project

A prominent example of unresolved visual code — and a milestone in the history of visual language — is the so-called »Phaistos Disc«. The clay-impressed notation on this ancient disc is assumed to be a textual representation and comprises 45 unique and recurrent symbols. It is considered to be an early, if not the earliest, document of movable type printing. The true intention of the »Phaistos Disc«, the intangible aspects, the syllable language and the narrative that is told through the symbols, all remain uncoded and are still discussed.

The »Phaistos Disc« and its 45 symbols became the starting point for the cross-
cultural project FORTY FIVE SYMBOLS — a collaborative exploration of visual language that unites students, teachers, scholars, and ideas from 6 cities across 4 continents. Inspired by the cryptic characters on the disc, students translated the semantic of signs into artistic works as sculpture, video-, sound-installations, sign- collections, concerts and performances, using translation-processes as artistic methods. The project strives to investigate signs, symbols, and writing systems, forms of transformation, contemporary and future developments, and the various ways they are expressed through media and artistic interpretation.

In this spirit, the artistic works created in the context of the FORTY FIVE SYMBOLS project reflect the cultural continuity of writing systems and their impact on our past and present while also representing the search for a personal and individual visual language. The exploration does not only reveal the tremendous variety of phenomena and systematization that human beings invented for their different purposes and objectives; it also depicts the fascinating connections between the contemporary and the ancient.