Universal Pictorial Language

An auxlang and art intersection.

Word of the Week - Basic Pronouns Click the glyph for more information.

Word of the Week - Basic Pronouns
Click the glyph for more information.

The Universal Pictorial Language, or UPL, is an ongoing community arts project in which I am attempting to create a new hieroglyphic writing system via the democratic process. This will be a decades long project that, the truth be told, isn't meant to "succeed" as a viable auxiliary language. Read below for more information.

Drawing during a practice brainstorming session at Arts Alive! Eureka. 2013.

Drawing during a practice brainstorming session at Arts Alive! Eureka. 2013.

If a language is meant to be universal, it should be developed as democratically as possible. Therefor, I propose to build the basic vocabulary of a universal pictorial language, or UPL. This piece will be a collaboration with the visitors of a public space, or other locale depending on funding and opportunity. Each glyph will be developed by an assortment of people drawing a word given by the seminar leader, and then submitted into a ballot box. At another public session people vote on the glyph that works best for them.

At first, the seminars would be lead by only me, but I would allow for volunteers to run extra sessions as the project picks up steam. Those symbols designed initially would be uploaded onto a database available for review by the internet community at large and members of the Language Construction Society. As the vocabulary grows, seminar sessions would be held to standardize stroke order, grammar, style and usage. As lead facilitator, I will continuously modify and update the UPL in handwritten, graphical and print fashions. My media will include ink on paper, digital print and eventually a screen printed book. All of this material will be available to the public and visitors will get a chance to learn about the project, practice writing, add their suggestions and be invited to bi-weekly seminars.

The goal at the end of this initial project will be to have a standard set of at least 200 ideograms with which I can develop a basic dictionary and at least one piece of prose. This dictionary will be the final product of all of my research and collaboration. With the digital documentation and several samples of prose written in UPL, I will have a working auxlang I can share with fellow artists, the Language Construction Society, the auxlang community and all others interested in the trials and mishaps of cross-communication. Perhaps the universal pictorial language will grow and evolve, and perhaps it will not. What I do know is that attempting to have complete control over a language is folly. By letting go, I hope to reveal all the assumptions, biases and flaws built into not just English, but the symbology that I and many others take for granted. In the end, I will have a new medium to work with and a diverse and dynamic language to share with the rest of the world.

a DreamMaker project of The Ink People.

Started as an Artist-In-Residence at Kala Art Institute.

"Love." Session 1, Eureka, Ca. 10-5-13.

"Take." Session 1, Eureka, Ca. 10-5-13.

"Universe." Session 1, Eureka, Ca. 10-5-13.