Ithra Art Prize 2019

Saudi-born London-based Daniah Al Saleh was announced as the winner of the second edition of the Ithra Art Prize 2019.


Al Saleh’s practice is based around logic-based patterns and computational art, although she is also an accomplished painter. Her winning project for Ithra is Sawtam – a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language, the effect of which is rather like a digital wind chime.



Ithra Art Prize 2019 winner Daniah Alsaleh and commissioned artwork, Sawtam

Sawtam is a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language, the effect of which is rather like a digital wind chime. Sawtam is the Arabic translation of the English word, phoneme. The work consists of 28 screens, arranged in a 4×7 grid. Each screen is dedicated to a separate sound or phoneme, representing a letter of the Arabic alphabet and the installation is programmed to play the sounds at random, meaning that when a viewer stands in front of the work, they are enveloped within a wall of sound that is meaningless but comprised of the parts of verbal language that are used every day.


The output – what the viewer sees on each screen – is constructed from one coding programme, which we call a sketch. Daniah created that sketch to generate lines, which move and change at random. That programme then works together with the voice file, for which she used her own voice to record each phoneme. The program is triggered by the wavelengths of the voice, which makes the lines vibrate.


A parallel example of the effect she wanted to create was a wind chime. In the same way as the wind moves the chimes and creates a sound, the air that we use to produce the sound of our voices, vibrates the lines in her coding.