Jack received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cornell University in summer 2020 studying the habitability of planets outside our Solar System. He began using his simulations of unknown worlds as inspiration for artistic renderings and has had his work featured in press releases, educational videos, and on journal covers. As a current MFA student in the Rhode Island School of Design Digital+Media department, Jack works on the same big questions he faced as an astrophysicist but now as an artist. He uses data manipulation and a cosmic perspective to digitally visualizes new senses of meaning and reality.
Words are frustrating. For something so cumbersome and nebulous, language holds a great deal of power over our collective 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. The value of words only exist with collective agreement among many people. 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.