Conversation Piece: Think, Because, Happen

The breath carries the voice so I sought volunteers at Brunel University to speak one or more words from the list of 60 “semantic primes;” a list of words critical to the formation of language across all cultures. [1]

This sound recording was then used to generate a three-dimensional sculpture in collaboration with my colleague Jason Tinsley. The project aimed to gather a diverse sample of vocalised words from across the Brunel community from students to academics, to allow a sampling of timbre, dialect, intonation and articulation of the key semantic primes. The forms were 3D printed within the School of Engineering and Design, and allowed the audience to be able to literally ‘hold’ pieces of conversation. This translation of voice into form created an evocative resource through which to raise questions of how carefully or recklessly we use these tools in our daily lives.

[1]Such a series of words has been identified by Anna Wierzbicka (Cross Cultural Pragmatics: The semantics of Human Interaction. 2ndedition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006). Wierzbicka has identified sixty words or semantic primes which form the basis of a natural semantic meta language and are the core words critical to communication in all major languages such as good, bad, know, need, I, you, big, small, want, live, die etcetera