A neologism is a newly-coined word or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. In the world of technology, neologisms such as “google” and “photoshop” become popular almost as soon as they are coined.
Artists often create visual neologisms through their work, offering new ways to perceive and express their experience of the world. Pierre Chaumont is a multimedia artist whose work is about questioning beliefs. Whether it’s language, family, faith or social belonging, Chaumont takes a concept and puts it in an unusual context to find a new way of seeing it. “For each project, I borrow an aesthetic from a notion and transform it, allowing a gap to occur,” says Chaumont. “From this shift, I try to question what I have learned to see, understand and judge. In a way, I’m trying to change the game’s rules to see if we’ll be able to continue playing.”
Chaumont’s Cloud Series was created from the artist’s desire to find a new way to express states of mind. “In language, we usually define these states as a complete experience – for example happy, sad or frustrated,” says Chaumont. “I wanted to create a visual neologism that would highlight a more transient side of it. To put these mental changes into images, I used two things: First, the triangle, taken from the notion of the Christian Trinity, as a multi-shape being that is one in itself. The second is the cloud as a photograph of a constant transformation of the being. These two elements are also trying to introduce the notion of context into the definitions of these visual neologisms.”
Here’s another thing about neologisms: When a word or phrase is no longer “new”, it is no longer a neologism. Some neologisms can take decades to become “old”, while others disappear from common use just as quickly as they appeared. I asked the artist at what point did he think the neologism he presented in his video will no longer be a neologism and if that was his goal – to have this new way to express emotions to become no longer “new”.
“I think that neologisms, either in the language or in this video, disappear when the viewer links this word to an experience,” Chaumont responded. “For example, everyone has his or her own image when we say ‘chair’, which is the result of direct contact with this object. It is when experience, existence and knowledge collide that words take their meaning for us. So I think that for the viewers, when they are in another situation and suddenly the neologism from this video appears in their head, the transition will have occurred. Being no longer ‘new’ is more of a result than a goal and my intention would be leaning toward the experience with words and the capacity to create them in a different way.”
As artists, constantly creating new visual neologisms or offering fresh perspectives on established ones, we are providing an ever-expanding vocabulary for our audience.
Artist Credits for the images included in this post:
Pierre Chaumont, Quebec, Canada
Pierre Chaumont’s artwork can be viewed at: Pierre Chaumont
The 365 Days Project
In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.