A text written by Myrto Digoni for the first Kryographia catalogue


To cast a word


A word is thrown. It colonizes the page. It is formed to a specific shape, is trimmed, stretched, conjugated, elided to create a recognizable / readable signifier. A shadow is cast. Then, metaphorically, it exits the page. Another word is thrown, and another, infusing the paper with scents and snatches of reality. The mold may be the same, but the meaning –and this is especially true if the word is a concept– is elastic. The concept evolves, merges various components, which may be variations, each variation making its presence felt as a bold stroke. There is an undeniable plastic quality to it. Also a distinctive spatiality. One needs to find his bearings in a word. One has to navigate within it. The word entails movement; it also claims movement. Mixing words, casting words is brain gymnastics. Which, one should acquiesce, can be a dangerous exercise. It propels us into the poetic anarchy of the sensible world.


One way to probe and reassess the world is to play word games. Creating metaphors. Or playing the same games Lewis Carroll used to play: making word ladders or inventing portmanteaux. In the first instance a player is given a start word and an end word and has to progressively morph the start word into the end word, using at each step of the way an existing word. To do so he can add, remove, change a letter, or use the same letters anagrammatically. By doing so one can stumble on his unconscious and learn more about how he thinks and feels; for one is essentially working by intuitive leaps and linkages. In the second instance the player / writer blends various words and their meaning into a new word. The coinage expresses a singular choice, reflects one’s unique way of experiencing and rendering a situation. It also reveals the associative and metaphorical movement of thinking. In his novel Ulysses, James Joyce associates what he calls his ‘8 am scene’ The House with the color orange and kidneys, the 11 am scene The Graveyard with black and white and the heart, the noon scene The Newspaper with red and the lungs, etc[1]. In Joyce’s case the mind is beyond a doubt metaphorical; his metaphorical thinking is grounded in embodiment, on man’s bodily experience of the world. He uses a synesthetic approach, in which stimulation of one sensory / cognitive pathway leads to experiences in a second sensory / cognitive pathway. As synesthetes go, letters put together do not solely equate a word that resonates with a single meaning; they also equate colors or evoke odors.


But sometimes, when the word actually exits the page, literally being cast or molded into a work of art, it denies the metaphor. Conceptual artists create neon sculptures of words that are thought out as tautologies. They transform words into visual objects –actually they remind us that words are primarily shapes and forms, before even being signifiers. Joseph Kosuth’s artwork Five Words In Orange Neon (1965) is effectively composed of five words in orange neon. What you see is what you see. But is it? The temptation is strong to see beyond, see an allusion to color-graphemic synesthesia, look for personal resonances. The form forming and jointing capabilities of the human brain are endless. We always tend to create connections, search for lost correspondences. There seems to be no escape. Ultimately to cast a word means ‘to search for a lost scent as in hunting with hounds’[2].




[1] Around 1920 James Joyce drew the Linati Schema to help a friend (Carlo Linati) understand the fundamental structure of his novel Ulysses, ‘an epic of two races and at the same time the cycle of the human body’. In this schema different episodes are associated with different parts of the human body, mythological heroes and colors.

[2] This being one of the definitions of the verb ‘to cast’