Dictionaries ver.2.0
Inkjet on canvas, 72cm x 540cm

Dictionaries ver. 2.0 addresses the transmittance of the elements of one particular culture to other cultures. I collected the monochromatic drawings that occasionally accompany written entries in foreign language translation dictionaries. I used four different English dictionaries – English to Japanese, English to Persian, English to Chinese, and English to Thai – as image sources. The images from these dictionaries were catalogued, digitized and presented in gridded diagrams. I arranged one hundred nineteen illustrations in alphabetical order from left to right in four rows. The top row consists of images from the English to Japanese dictionary, the second, English to Persian, the third, English to Chinese, and the bottom row, English to Thai.

The main focus of this piece delineates the misrepresentation of the concept of a word by a visual image. Simply put, there is always a certain gap between what the picture represents and what the word really means. To the native speaker of English, the use of particular illustrations in these dictionaries seems funny because of the failure to convey the core concept of the word being represented. For example, why is it necessary in the English to Persian dictionary to show a picture of a Barbecue in which an ordinary American family is barbecuing outside? There is no explanation for this except to assume perhaps that people do not barbecue in the Middle East. The illustration alone is extremely open to a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. Does ”barbecue” mean to eat outside, or to cook outside? Does it tell us anything about the feeling Americans have towards the barbecue – a fun activity with one’s family or close friends on a holiday afternoon?

Another key aspect of this piece is its cross-cultural referentiality. In Dictionaries, different cultures present their own interpretation of certain words by their particular styles of illustration. Surprisingly enough, the words that do get illustrated frequently coincide among the different dictionaries. For instance, all four dictionaries have the illustration for castle and lobster. Three of the dictionaries contain drawings of guillotines. Why do they overlap? What do they tell us about the relationships between English, Persian, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cultures? In this project, the English language and its culture serve as a polar axis to compare and contrast different cultures through the way elements of another culture, English and American, are interpreted.