A Savage Journey into the Heart of Language Making

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is hunting for new words.

by Leah Lamb
Nov 25 2015, 10:50pm

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality looking for words. Photo: Stephen Braitsch, courtesy the artists

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality began in 2014, well into the San Francisco drought. Founders Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott realized they were both experiencing Psychic Corpus Dissonance (PCD)—now defined as really enjoying un-seasonally warm weather while also being aware that the blue skies and warm sunshine are brought on by oncoming climate chaos—but on that particular day, didn’t yet have the right word for it. “We were at a loss for words for how to explain the dichotomy of our experience," they explain.

As it turns out, Alicia and Heidi aren't alone in not-having the exact words to express their emotional lives as they relate to the changing planet. The two women started throwing around neologisms such as "anthropocene" and "solastalgia"—the new name for our modern epoch, and the anxiety over climate change it reeks of, respectively—and were intrigued by how these terms were finding a new life in art circles. “We explored Linguistic Relativity: the idea that because we think in words, the institution of language directly shapes the way its speakers conceptualize their world,” Escott explains.

Quante and Escott bring people together to talk about the emotion and phenomena that we are experiencing as the temperatures and ecosystems change, and want to give participants of their talks the agency to coin their own, new words.

“I’ve been working on climate issues for 16 years, and behavior science shows that shifts happen through curiosity. We want people who don’t identify as activists to have a way into the conversation. So we started hosting field studies, bringing together scientists, artists, psychologists, poets and mothers, around a common theme. And we asked them to play at articulating their emotions, ideas and experiences of living in the world during this time of climate change.

We realized that by providing a space for people from diverse backgrounds to come together and brainstorm neologisms, we were facilitating people shaping their culture via language," Quante explains.  

Slow Ennuipocalypse_web.jpg

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is taking their show on the road and will be in Paris during the UN Climate Talks, which begin this weekend. “I’ve participated in many of the climate talks, laws come and go, so regardless of if we come up with a binding agreement, we have an opportunity to shift cultures by having a new relationship with the climate conversation. By going to Paris we want to share a new approach and way of engaging diverse sectors of the society and the event while bringing people of diverse backgrounds together," they explain. 

Quante shared her observations of how people shift through the experience of attending one of their field studies: “Participants walk in as observers of creative culture. By the end of one of our sessions they have developed new language. Our hope is that we can inspire the people who participate in our project to shift their relationship to seeing themselves as being a part of changing culture."

If you won’t be in Paris for COP 21, you can follow what they're doing on Instagram: @thebureauoflinguisticalreality. 

Where to find The Bureau of Linguistical Reality in Paris:

  • ARTCOP 21, The Summit of Creatives,

  • November 26 & 27: Facilitating workshops at the Conference of the Youth on how to use art and culture to engage people on the climate change issue.

  • Place to B  November 29-December 10

  • Gaité Lyrique on December 6th

Click here to visit the Bureau of Linguistic Reality's website. 


Step Inside a Book Labyrinth Shaped Like Borges' Fingerprint

Cantoni And Crescenti Tear Down The Tower Of Babel With 40 Cell Phones

Words Become Monumental Works in the Hands of Idris Khan

Alicia Escott
Art and Activism
COP 21 Un Climate Talks
Heidi Quante
The Bureau of Linguistical Reality