The Condition of Rosetta Stones

© 2005 c.j. fleury

Artist Statement

The Condition of Rosetta Stones invites the viewer to contemplate how knowledge is made and used. It questions the idea of learning and the impact of new information on personal and collective futures. It combines images from cosmic, human, genetic and computer realms.

Depending on who you are at Heritage College, one's interpretation of the art might touch on identity, literature, black holes, biometrics, print-making, or colour theory.

You can detect a spectral DNA strand (right side).

You can ask philosophical questions about a galaxy that evolves into a Western alphabet (top left).

Click image to enlarge

You could even wonder why the double whorl of a finger print has margins that metamorphose into binary code (bottom left).

Click image to enlarge

The artist identifies the art's elements as code carriers, as information-filled patterns or systems for "knowing". Their spinning nature and structural similarities recall the fundamental interconnection of all things on and around this planet. Human intervention into one domain can revolutionize another. These code carriers may be seen as contemporary Rosetta Stones. In deciphering their codes, phenomenal information is unleashed. For instance: spectral patterns reveal chemical information about distant planets as well as functioning like "fingerprints of atoms, as unique as DNA" (K.C.Cole).

While fingerprints symbolize the mark of human presence, the research, development and implementation of fingerprint pattern-recognition systems are causing a major human rights controversy.

Genetic research advances medicine, and law, while some seek profit in the ownership of particular genetic maps. So, codes not only convey data, expose a range of attitudes around human interaction, technological manipulation and sustainability.

At first glance, the large images speak to the mission of Heritage, and invite the public to consider the Rosetta Stone. Upon repeated viewing, the layout of images conveys deeper concepts...

- c.j. fleury

The installation is located on the Continuing and Physical Education wing.

Artist Biography

c.j. fleury is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes drawing, shield-making, performance, writing, video and large scale sculpture.

Since 1992, she has completed commissions for twelve permanent public works in Ontario and Quebec. In Ottawa, these include Enclave - the Women's Monument Against Violence, off Elgin Street and The Dorothy O'Connell Anti-Poverty Activists' Monument at City Hall. These and much of the artist's other work explore the vision and creative potential of non-art groups.

As a cultural researcher / activist, interested in the role of art in contemporary society, c.j. has also studied anthropology. With this lens, she has focussed on the marginal area of collaborative practice and has worked to stretch public models of co-creative action. Her groundbreaking community art projects with Municipal maintenance workers, local villagers or the feminist law community, have been taught and researched in universities in Canada and the States. She has been invited to present these models through arts, civic and legal symposiums, arts councils, museums and universities here and abroad. She lectures in the contexts of art, activism, law, social sciences and labour.

c.j.'s art (drawings, sculpture,video) is found in public and private collections: City of Ottawa, Trent University, Workers Heritage Museum, Daimon New Media Centre, SAW Video, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and The Canada Council Art Bank.


K.C Cole, The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.

Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Bach and Escher: an Eternal Golden Braid, Random House, 1979.

Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, Viking Press. 1974

Rosetta Stones, Scientific, Aesthetic and Philosophical Information
According to Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, the Rosetta stone was one of history's most important discoveries. Hofstadter, discusses the Rosetta stone, the key to deciphering previously incomprehensible hieroglyphs, to explain the different levels of information in any message and how we go about decoding them. In the process of /sequences of making meaning, understanding the information-bearing codes is only one aspect. The ultimate meaning is made when the new information is matched to an established knowledge system, applied to a context or read within a wider environment. It is also interesting to note that Hofstadter refers to the message-bearing codes of DNA, at some length, as he discusses the critical relationships between the part to the [context] whole.

This artwork was commissioned in accordance with the Politique d'intégration des arts à l'architecture Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Quebec.

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