Wednesday, April 20
For our second active Re: Writing workshop only 5 people had signed up, but we decided to still hold it as a moment of practice. With Senka Milutinovic and Donatas Tretjakovas we had discussed writing a dictionary of invented words. The workshop would be set in an alternate world that needs a new vocabulary to describe previously unheard processes, activities, things, and creatures; together we would be writing the collaborative dictionary of the future. We came up with the gibberish title 'Figutating the Bubbly Confalve', words that yet needed to be defined. We planned the details and rounded up what we had discussed shortly before the workshop. We would start with a round of introductions and by asking everybody for a word they think should exist but doesn't (yet). Then we would settle in the universe, keeping it vague and open, so the definition of the words would also construct the world. The only premises we were giving was that the colour yellow is offensive, people are very hesitant to share their names, and greet each other by exchanging a strand of hair. We made a list of invented words and decided that people would first define the words on their own, and then collectively see how to explain the differences in definition.
Next to Senka, Naomi Janssen, and me, only three people joined the workshop. We prepared some tea and people brought snacks. It was probably good that only a few people joined, as the narrative already got confusing with the six people present. The definitions of the words were very imaginative, contingent, and each word had a complex etymology that underwent many changes. In this world, years are named after colours, which a mysterious person in a tower announces every year by throwing a paper plane with the name of the colour into a crowd. The current word-order dates back to the yellow year, also called the y-year. We didn’t completely figure out what happened then, but it involved the sun and an overindulgence in yellow. Since then, most yellow things are forbidden, but upcoming generations challenge this by inging - revelling in excessive yellowness. One of the yellow specialties, the now underground snack confalve, a snowflake-shaped pancake, also lent its name to the organ that lies just underneath the crane and directs the ability to pluck out strands of hair and exchange them as a form of greeting. The amount of hair collected by a person, and hence their popularity, is a signifier of social status. A collection of hair forms a glob. If a person doesn't wash their hair for a while, it accumulates surt, a type of grease. Surt hair is considered especially valuable. If a person is hesitant whether they want to hand over a strand of hair or not, and play with it in a teasing manner, it is called figutation, and usually not considered very polite. Some people who do not socialise a lot and don't get to give away their hair end up being very hairy and are called kranys. Many of them are older and were already alive during the y-year, so they have a stronger tendency to support the PPP (Purple Power Party). The PPP is also responsible for the new word-order, which drastically limits the amount of vocabulary in use. This is challenged by the wordmilitia, a para-vocabulary organisation that agitates people to make up new words, grammars, and alphabets.
The workshop was a lot of fun, at some point we started mapping out the different meanings of the words and their relationships to each other. It was fascinating to witness this world, with all its contradictions, slowly build up and I think this format is something to develop further in the future. It also became apparent how political reality shapes our imagination. I noticed how aspects from the political context of the participants manifested themselves in this made-up world. Also, especially colours are often linked to certain political agendas or parties. For example, one of the participants from Catalunya said they couldn’t help but think of the last years in Barcelona, when the streets were coloured yellow as a sign of support for Catalunya’s independence struggle and identity.
Images to the right: Wilhelm, Julia. Documentation of the workshop. 20 Apr. 2022.