A metonymic mapping

Word:Mass has been created as a visual rendition of serial metonymic meaning expansion, using words relating to ‘light’ and ‘knowledge’. It makes reference to language evolution and geological sedimentation. Words that relate to each other have been strung along paths in multiple layers, sometimes connecting with other strands and sometimes partially obscuring other words; some words are highlighted while others are barely visible. Muted colour directs the eye around the composition and formatting symbols add both ambiguity and the potential for further meanings.

‘Signifier/signified’ booklet

Word:Mass has been divided into 200 parts and will be distributed to each delegate at the RaAM8 Conference, Amsterdam, as a mini-booklet, ‘Signifier/signified’ – a reference to Jacques Lacan’s algorithm for the signifying chain of metonymy, (Lacan 2002: 139-167). However, each delegate will have little or no sense of where their fragment fits into the whole Word:Mass image, or whose images may lie adjacent to theirs. Through interaction, delegates may be able to find associations and connections between their fragment and those of other delegates, but they will not know if these associations bear any resemblance to the original Word:Mass construction.  This process of reconfiguring the signifying chain, generates an ‘indefinite referral of signified to signifier’, (Derrida 1978: 25). 

Word:Mass and Signifier/signified act as a paradigm for language evolution, where random connections, experiential knowledge, and extraneous material form new meanings for individuals, and where earlier meanings, known to others, are partially, or even totally lost.  This evolutionary process bears the traits of a ‘self-organising system’ that conforms to the principles of thermodynamics, whereby, an accumulation of quantity, reaches  a ‘tipping point’ which triggers a qualitative change.

A poster showing the complete version of Word:Mass, presented as a map, will be available for viewing from 12.10 – 1:15pm on Thursday 1 July,  behind Aula, in Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  

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