- Words that indicate time go at the beginning of the sentence (now, tomorrow, always, never, sometimes, etc.)
- Adjectives precede nouns
- There is a single symbol that can be written after a noun to express possession (similar to apostrophe S in English)
- There is a word that can be put at the end of any sentence to indicate that is a question (similar to a question mark)
- There is no punctuation
- Articles like a or the are not used
When I started in New Genres, I was determined to make a game. My original idea was to create a visually simplistic, text-based narrative that the user would progress through by answering questions. After reading “Strategies of Interactive Art” by Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, I learned that games aren’t the only cool way to create an engaging and thought-provoking interactive experience. For now, I put my original idea aside. Once we decided on the theme “Supernova” for the Art Party, the rest of my idea began to take shape. As a lover of linguistics, my mind went straight to alien language. I could stick with the idea of asking questions to my audience by writing them in a language of my own creation and translating them into English. I later decided I would create a slideshow of questions and proverbs to display with two projectors simultaneously. I started off by brainstorming a set of symbols with which to build my language. I wanted the symbols to look different enough from the latin alphabet but still recognizable as a language to my audience. I decided that they would be composed only of straight lines and could be strung together without spaces in order to form words. Pictured below is an example of the first version and a string of random symbols. The next step was to create a font so I could type my language. I used fontstruct.com, a website that I had never used before but was easy to figure out. This is an example of what the interface looked like as I drew each letter: While translating my hand drawn letters into their digital forms, I discovered that the diagonal lines weren’t working as well as the horizontal or vertical ones. They looked strange and out of place, so I wrote new characters using horizontal and vertical lines only. I also realized that it would be difficult to tell where one symbol began and another ended when they were all strung together, so I added a dot centered above every symbol to make it easier for the reader to discern. Finally, I decided to make one symbol for every letter in the alphabet so I had enough of a variety. One problem that was troubling me as I worked on my project was, what does each letter sound like? I realized that creating an entire phonetic system was much too big of a task and also not relevant to my project. Because it was going to be projected, the point was for it to be visually interesting and different from English, so it didn’t matter what it sounded like. Whenever I was asked about this, I explained that humans are incapable of producing the sounds of the language. When I finished my alphabet, I downloaded the font and began typing out my questions and proverbs. The questions were meant to be thought-provoking, not cheesy, and start conversation among my audience. As I wrote them, I imagined an alien civilization that wished to communicate with other planets. What would they want to know? I thought about what their planet/culture might be like and how those features would become apparent through the questions they asked, such as space travel, dimension hopping, crystals, slime, and beasts. I wrote 26 in total. To create words, I mostly just typed random letters until I came up with something visually appealing. For some words, like sun and moon, I used the symbols to create shapes that looked like what they described. I also needed to create words for concepts that don’t exist in English, like solid-bodied or soft-bodied or body swap. I recorded every word I used in my journal and created a dictionary for myself to refer back to. I also created a basic grammar system for my language. I did this by making up rules as I needed them, then sticking to them. To start, I decided that the basic sentence structure would be subject → object → verb. If the verb is is, it’s left out because it’s implied. For example, I like pizza becomes I pizza like, and I am a student becomes I student (am). Here are some more of my grammar rules:
When we began planning the art party, I had no idea what it would look like, or even really what making it would entail. But I dove headfirst into brainstorming it, beginning with the theme, which proved to be a difficult needle to thread. It was important to provide a basis that was simple and broad, but not too broad, so that artists working on the party would have a jumping-off point for installations but still have the freedom of having their own take on the theme. We also needed to make sure that the theme could be communicated easily to attendees. The theme and title we chose, Supernova, ultimately combined the postmodernism and elegance we were going for with a kitschy, space opera vibe. To go with the title, I created a dress code that would further flesh out the world of the party, which we included in the posters. Leading up to the party, we also decided to create a new poster for each day in the week, putting them up at night to preserve the magic of the poster changing. Then there was the question of decoration. Again, it was a question of fitting the theme without being cliche; and of making Heimbold into something completely different from its everyday self. We gelled lights, changing the color of the space, and used mylar to cover a wall upstairs. The reflection of the colored light on the mylar really changed the experience of the space, and over the course of party almost everyone who attended wanted to take a picture in front of the wall. We also made balloon structures and mylar nests of candy, and covered projector tables and food tables in mylar sheeting, which really brought together the visual aesthetic of the party. The decision to make this change overnight also affected the outcome, and added to the mystical element of the party. Not having the work of setup as part of our fiction allowed for a more fun and carefree atmosphere at the party itself. A few semi-contained spaces of fully realized change rather than a half-realized change throughout the whole space proved to be very effective, and the gels and music throughout the building carried the spaces that were less transformed. The harmonious visual aesthetics of the decoration also helped with this – using mostly silver, white, and blue, even with things as simple as candy, connected all of the different pieces around the building. Attendees expressed how much they enjoyed it, and bought into the fiction of the world we had created, dressing up and engaging with interactive installations. By concealing how we created things, and what work had gone into them, the party became a space of wonder and engaged the curiosity of anyone with a desire to enter the space of play. I struggled a lot with time estimation on this project – it was difficult to figure out how long something I had never done before would take, especially when factoring in multiple people working on the project at once. There were a few elements of decoration I had to abandon because of this, and I initially thought that I would be able to experience design and make an individual piece, which ended up not being the case. Because the format of the art party was new to Sarah Lawrence, I think it was also difficult for some participants – both artists and attendees – to fully understand beforehand what the art party would be. We also struggled with creating a large-scale piece in a shared space and the challenges that posed (not being able to use certain rooms, sound bleed, etc), even needing to change the date because of budgeting concerns towards the beginning of the process. Despite these setbacks, people really enjoyed the party, and I was immensely satisfied with the outcome. I learned a lot about creating a piece like this on a larger scale and how to preserve the mysticism in presentation; I also really value the work that I did with the rest of my class as a team. It was really rewarding to see everyone’s individual work and how it all fit together, and I’m truly happy I got to be a part of it.