Language Matters

Aftertaste tackled the basic human need to connect, through language, with the things around us

The world around us is rich in imagination, beauty, connections, emotions, and anything else you may think of when you think of the designed environment. Yet the language we use to describe this fascinating gift to us, a gift shaped by designers, lacks the complexity and richness of our environment, that small part of the world we come in contact with every day, at every scale, from the smallest object to the teeming streets of a metropolis. This was the message of AFTERTASTE 2013, “The Atmosphere of Objects,” held at New York’s Parsons the New School for Design earlier in the spring. The provocation for the symposium was delivered by author Akiko Busch, the first managing editor of Metropolis magazine and our contributing writer for two decades. When she read some odes to the physical world by the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, those of us gathered at the school’s auditorium were given a gift of language. Busch challenged us to write our own odes to the everyday objects we come in contact with. The hand-written odes poured in, proving the basic human need to connect, through language, with the things around us. Here are some of the odes we captured that day. What would your ode be about? Two odes to the button 1. Closes and envelopes, secure until not, and then again lost and re-found, re-adapted. So simple and complex–I love the form, function, form. 2. Like you washed up on the beach after years of tumbling with salt and sand. You hold me together. Keep me from falling apart. Ode to a MetroCard Swish, here to there and back again, the magic key that unlocks a space-time treasure. Without you I’m stuck in one place, for all time. You unlock me, my potential, my silent partner. Ode to my pencil My pencil (my sword?) has a core of LEAD that will last me years (or hours?) of words pouring out like magic.  But on its far end, the eraser top scolds. Ode to my new bread knife Hay bread knife, you are too good at your job. You ventilated my finger with a lot less effort than it takes to bisect a bagel. Ode to a test tube A world-class wine tester who never gets tired of trying drinks and never gets drunk.

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