Words as Art

Because I’m a writer and an artist, I’m always looking for ways that other artists put words in their art. Yesterday,  I found Stephie Calle, who used a Dear Jane letter and created an entire art project around it.

Today I came across the Word Count project by Jonathan Harris. He’s an artist whose entire body of work exists on computers. Part of Harris’s mind is an engineer’s mind, part is an artist’s mind. Harris created a list of the 86,800 most common words in the English language. He sorted them and posted them.  The most common word is “the” and its number is ‘1’ . “of'” and “and” are in places 2 and 3. You can look up a word to see where it is or type in a position number and see what word it is.

Looking at them turns you into a Talmudic scholar.  Click on “666” and you get the word “easy.” There is some wonderful divine justice in that. “God” at number 376, is between “began” and “top.” It starts to make sense after a while. “Death” (number 454) is between “church” and “sometimes.”  There are words in sequence that make sense. “Running” and “Feet” and numbers 698 and 699. “Contagious” (2159) is just one over from “Feverish” (2161).

Harris wasn’t finished yet. He started a count to see which words people looked at most often and created another list–the Query List. What’s the most common word people looked up? Of course,  “sex.”

Have some fun. Type in your birthday, your age, some special number. See what comes up. Words are art. In many ways.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007. All rights reserved.

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