Words are frustrating. For something so cumbersome and nebulous, language holds a great deal of power over our thoughts and actions. I believe this relationship must be fully disclosed and challenged.
In this series of digital renderings and large format prints, I've created several ways of visualizing the hierarchical structure in the definitions of words whose true meanings can be elusive. These renderings are visual representations of what I’ve been calling “complete definitions”, a set of words that contains all words in the definitions arising from an initial seed word. Beginning at the top, lines are drawn starting between the seed word and the words needed to define it, and then the words needed to define those words, and then the next words and so on until no new words are needed. I found that for all the seed words I picked, a set of only ~8000 words is needed for convergence in around 20 layers of definitions.
By arranging and connecting the relationships between these words and the words needed to define them, structures emerge to show how confined, repetitive, closed, and isolated our words are. Different seed words create different structures, but the components are all the same. Each new word holds no more definitional value than the one before it. We can see how limited and finite language is and will always be by looking at language in this way. New words must be built from old ones. Authentic concepts can never be captured in words. On its own, language can be a start but not an end.