“WordPharmacy,” at first glance, appears to a pharmacy. Shelf after shelf of an assortment of colorful little boxes, behind glass displays, containing, one imagines, soft capsules, chalky tablets, a bitter syrup, a yard of gauze.
Inch a tad closer and one realizes, however, that the names on them are oddly, not very like pills and potions. They are decidedly un-pharmaceutical, in fact. They are not standard medication, after all. And, the “doctor” behind the counter, is the Danish artist and poet Morten Søndergaard.
A clever art installation, composed of 10 medicine box exhibits, each corresponding to the 10 word groups, more academically known as “Parts of Speech,” WordPharmacy prescribes witty cures for those afflicted with a grammar disorder.
They nudge the synapses, for sure. ZOUCH’s Ally Mookerjee spoke with Søndergaard to investigate further.
What is the story of WordPharmacy?
It is a work that equates the structure of language with pharmaceutical products. The [installation] consists of 10 medicine boxes, each representing one of the ten word groups. Each box contains a leaflet that functions as an instructional poem, guiding the reader’s ingestion of the given word group. Like pills, language is something to be consumed by the body. Nobody wants grammar and nobody wants medicine. But I found out that when you combine the two, people want the combination.
A sample of the poetry that accompanies each box follows:
What you need to know before you start using Adjectives®:
Adjective, from Latin adjectives, -iva, from adjicere meaning ‘to add, join, annex’. They are great fun, but Adjectives® are heavily dependent on the qualities which things already possess. Which is why they are so reliant on others. Adjectives® bring out qualities in things. Wear rubber gloves if you often use a lot of Adjectives®. Keep Adjectives® well away from the eyes. Do not use Adjectives® too often. Overuse can result in a resistance to them or in an itching scalp.
One Adjective® per Noun®. Avoid double adjectives whenever possible, since they tend to dilute rather than reinforce the effect. Use Adjectives® with children under the age of two only with the parents’ consent.
An Adjective® can hit you in the middle of a sentence and can then be hard to shake off.
Does this project have anything to do with how we communicate today? Is language sick?
Some language needs cure, and poetry may have a healing effect. Many poets were doctors such as William Carlos Williams and Gottfried Benn.
What is the inspiration behind WordPharmacy?
I grew up in a home full of pills and words. The WordPharmacy was an idea in my head for many years, but when I told people about it, they never understood it. Then, I did it, and now they do. I am fond of scientific information or philosophical explanation of the world’s condition, of any occurrence of intense attention in the things that surround us. Good poetry is an example of intense attention.