Universal Pictorial Language - Phase 1, Kala Residency

by Katy Warner


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Greetings! My name is Katy Warner, and I am combining the elements of community art, design and auxlangs to create a new writing system called the Universal Pictorial Language. With your support, I will raise $2,500 and devote myself fully to interacting with the public to write the UPL and learn screenprinting during the two months of my residency.

My main practice is in writing and presenting rebus riddles, but I began to realize that the symbols I was using were far too specific and based on my biases. To learn more, I started researching constructed languages and symbology while in grad school, but (alas!) my thesis exhibition got in the way. Now, in the next two months (November-December 2013) I will be attending my first residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California to learn screenprinting, and I need your help to fund the creation of a first edition of a Universal Pictorial Language dictionary.

My main inspiration is Blissymbolics, an ideographic visual writing system that amateur Charles Bliss had created in the 1960s as an auxlang, a new language that could be universally learned and understood. His writing system could have been an incredible asset, but Bliss faced two challenges: his idealism and his pride. As with Esperanto, there was pushback against consolidating the written word, for it could destroy the diversity of language. The auxlang also carries with it an air of colonial domination, which is something Bliss simply chose to ignore. He also refused to let the symbols develop naturally, and sued a canadian therapist society for modifying Blissymbols to assist their young patients who could not read. The system, as far as Bliss was concerned, was his to control.

If a language is meant to be universal, it should be developed as democratically as possible. Therefor, this piece will be a collaboration with a large swathe of art-goers thoughout Northern California: at First Fridays in Oakland, Kala Art Institute in Berkeley and The Ink People and Arts Alive! in Eureka. Each ideogram would be developed by a group of 4-6 people working together to represent a word given by me from a list of the most commonly used concepts in all languages. 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 online and be invited to bi-weekly seminars. Once the debate over a symbol has ceased, it will be included as a page in my UPL dictionary produced via screenprinting at Kala.

The goal at the end of this initial project is to have a standard set of 200 ideograms with which I can develop a basic dictionary and at least one piece of prose. With your support, I can devote myself fully to interacting with the public and learning screenprinting during the two months of my residency. I will also produce a series of limited edition screenprints which I can then exhibit to promote the UPL and its potential as a social experiment. If I go beyond my goal, I can arrange for additional public seminars and materials to expand my dictionary.

Care to be idealistic with me? Then I would love any level of support. Thank you all!

A DreamMaker Project of the Ink People Center For The Arts, Eureka, Ca.

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