Words become Gestures
Gestures become Words

Transposing cross-cultural differences and similarities
of corresponding
hand gestures and their word meanings

author:Sonya Rapoport

Digital Mudra begins with a collection of photographs from Rapoport's interactive performance entitled Biorhythm (1983). Participants, to test their own evaluation of their biorhythm condition against a computer assessment of their emotional/physical state, were asked to express with words and a gesture "how they were feeling that evening." They sat in a dentist's chair and donned bibs that provided a contrasting background for the gestures that were to be photographed. The spoken words were recorded simultaneously with the photographing of the gesture.

In 1978, for the interactive installation, Digital Mudra, the photographs of the Biorhythm gestures were correlated with drawings of similiar gestures in the Indian Mudra vocabulary. The verbal expressions accompanying the western gestures were compared with the meanings of their corresponding Mudra gestures.

Mudra, from Sanscrit, means gesture. For 400 years Mudra movements have been used in Southern India to tell a story - a blending of Arayan and Dravidian cultures from 1,500 years earlier. The story is cued by the story teller and interpreted by the Kathakali dancer who creates a physical and emotional phenomenon. The purpose of this synthesis of language and gesture is to imagine the word's movement as a perception of universal relationships.

The following Digital Mudra is an adaptation of the 1987 multimedia interactive installation.