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Without language: an exploration

Last night as my mind deflated into that semi dreamy state, I began to ponder the quirks of language. Okay, you might say this is a fairly heavy thing to be pondering, but it’s at times like these that my mind is freeing up from the “have tos” of the day and I can start to enjoy thought processes that don’t necessarily result in either financial reward or domestic ‘bliss’; it’s the only time my mind can damn well wander where ever it pleases.

Although the details of how this all started are a little fuzzy now, I started thinking about a community of mind readers! I think it was perhaps an episode of Torchwood that prompted me and the little lesson it expounded about how a fleeting thought in someone’s head is not necessarily true or accurate. It is just one of a billion thoughts and ideas that buzz along our synapses and the intruding mind reader just happened to catch that one thought.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking something completely unacceptable or even shameful? Let’s not go into the learned morals and ethics that complete our make up, or the point about who we are is from the choices we make! That’s a completely different thought process and my mind was taking a different, scenic route.

What if, I thought, the society didn’t have language as such? I mean, what is language after all? Most of us at one time or another have had experiences where words completely fail us, especially if we come from different cultures and different languages.

An example just this morning occurred (or almost) as I was leaving after a particularly tiresome photo shoot in front of the local supermarket. The sun was shining, I was feeling relieved that I got the shot I needed, and my mind was doing a little jig on superficial and unrelated things such as how much my daughter loves water melon. Right there, was a van pulled up near the front door and a lad was unloading said watermelons into a trolley to take them inside.

I almost cheerfully said “good morning to the man with the melons”. Now this may seem quite innocuous, but let me point out that the lad didn’t look too happy because undoubtedly the bloody things weighed a ton. It was Friday morning and he probably had better places to be. AND more to the point, while not actually fat, the lad he was a tad portly. I don’t need to go into that old chestnut about body image and adolescence, do I? I stopped myself from saying it and I’m quite glad of that because I’m almost certain it would have been misunderstood.

Words can have such huge limitations and I wonder if any writer can ever truly be confident that the words they write are being received in the same spirit by their readers or that the meanings, images and ideas are truly being conveyed. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – just ask any comedian who specialises in double entendres.

Anyway, our mind readers would be tapping directly into the communication centre of the brain! How would you do this without thinking of words? Would you use images? But again this is language! It is merely symbolism replacing text and to me that is what art should be. If it conveys no meaning then it is merely décor. Does that offend you? It shouldn’t. It is just my opinion albeit passionately held.

However, here again we are applying our own life experiences to what it is we see. We’re interpreting the visuals. What would our mind readers do to communicate with someone who has been blind from birth?

Perhaps mind readers then need to perfect pure thought by tapping into other sensory experience.

Go on. Try it! Try to explain to a blind mind reader how to tie a shoe lace without using text, words or visuals! How do you think a feeling or a concept? Perhaps you would think of the feeling of enclosing someone else’s hand between your own, the warmth and smoothness of your own skin against theirs, then slowly bend your hands together to place fingers in position to feel the shoe lace … and so forth.

How very sensual such a tactile experience could be even just by thinking it. I’m not sure if you can use sensory experiences of smell and sound to instruct one on tying shoe laces and perhaps it was at this point I fell asleep. I can’t tell you what dreams followed but I did wake quite early and refreshed this morning so I’m thinking perhaps I will go mind reading again tonight.

Without language: an exploration

Anne van Alkemade

Joined April 2007

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Artist's Description

Sometimes words fail me, and sometimes my mind wanders much further without text or subtext. An essay on language.

Artwork Comments

  • butchart
  • Tania Rose
  • Anne van Alkemade
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