Experiment: Word games

Studying the philosophy of language reminded me that language in art is ripe for interpretation. “Free play” was a term coined by Kant as a representation of the space between imagination and understanding – this is where the artist can cast their spell on language to entice the viewer.

One experiment that came out of a tutor crit was to take some emotive words from the original letters and turn them into a game. So several words were chosen and cut out as circles to mimic coins as I was trying to find a link to a traditional coin pusher fairground game, that game of chance that has highs and lows but we all know that we will end up poorer over time. How this would link to a relationship I wasn’t sure but it did seem like there was plenty of potential.

Several words were chosen and they were a mix of those with obvious meaning such as “hate” and “sorry” but others that were more interpretive such as “glow” and “cold”. I liked how the ease of interpretation could be played with – the level of “free play” would ebb and flow.

I created the simple video below to see whether different word arrangements would reveal anything of interest. A central word sits at the centre around which our life randomly associates. I experimented with saving this at different speeds but decided on a double speed result as I liked this chaotic pace with choices being made without much attention to detail.

This is a simple idea but it has helped define the parameters of integrating language into my work:

  • The placement of language both to itself and to everything around can completely change its meaning so the same language in different settings can have wildly different interpretations.
  • The speed at which language is shown (particularly in a video) changes its tone and manipulates the attached emotion in a visual way.
  • How the building blocks of language are shown helps define the amount of “free play” we give the viewer, so we have a scale from individual letters to full sentences.
  • Most significantly the actual language chosen is critical, as many words have multiple meanings and this gives the artist much room to play with association, context and humour.

Next steps

I can revisit my ideas for using language in the project with more potential as I see that the meaning of language is way bigger than the words themselves. As I’m finding again and again in this project the challenge will be to find the right language and props to create that perfect blend of imagination and knowledge.

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