Brian Dailey’s WORDS is a powerful visual expression of the challenges we face in our efforts to communicate key concepts across linguistic boundaries and national borders in the age of globalization. The artist’s investigation into the relationship between language, culture, and identity has taken him on a multifaceted odyssey to more than eighty countries over the course of six years. The towering, multi-screen video installation WORDS is the creative summation of his global experiences, compelling viewers to come to terms with the fluid relationship between language and concept, between interpretation and meaning.
Working within an international geopolitical landscape undergoing tumultuous and historic changes during the period in which this project evolved, Dailey visited public and private venues on all seven continents. He set up his camera and green-screen backdrop in various locales and invited random passersby to participate. A local facilitator presented each participant a series of words in his or her native language and invited them to express—in a single word—the first impression each of these nouns evoked. The words Dailey selected expanded over the course of the project in response to experiences and input from participants in different countries he visited. It grew to a list of thirteen words that exhibited international resonance and the ability to elicit personal responses: Peace, war, love, environment, freedom, religion, democracy, government, happiness, socialism, capitalism, future, and United States.
In the production process of the WORDS project, Dailey selected and excerpted a cross-section of responses from the targeted twenty interviews from each country, aiming to capture both distinctive cultural patterns that habitually emerged as well as unusual or highly creative answers. A backdrop of the national or regional flag that each participant elected was digitally inserted into each of these selected clips, providing vibrant cultural identity markers. The diverse replies and colorful flags serve as the project’s poetic and aesthetic structure and as vehicles for unveiling cultural and regional variations, discrepancies, and affinities around the globe. This visual and lingual labyrinth symbolizes the multiple routes through which the thirteen words acquire at times surprising meanings across cultural divides.
Dailey edited the selected clips into individual videos corresponding to the specific prompts—one production for each of the thirteen words—and juxtaposed them in a towering thirteen-screen installation. The resulting kaleidoscopic, cacophonous, and mesmerizing structure offers a contemporary turn on primordial stories such as the Tower of Babel explaining the worldwide diversity of languages. Evoking a tale with parallels in ancient biblical, Sumerian, and Assyrian literature and myths, as well as Islamic tradition, the artist joins a diverse group of artists in various mediums who have drawn inspiration for millennia from these seemingly universal architectural symbols and parables of human aspiration. However, unlike the ancient legends, WORDS is rooted in the present and seeks to elucidate through this inventive vehicle how languages, and the words upon which they are built, shape our reality through the lens of globalization.
The goal is to visit 100 countries on seven continents to ensure a broad diversity of cultures and nationalities.
The multi-screen installation premiers on January 27, 2018 at the American University Museum in Washington D.C., followed by several international venues.
Countries visited to date are:
Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
You can follow the artist in his international odyssey on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WordsBrianDailey/