The power of words

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Artist Dan Trajman says words are too often used to humiliate and put down rather than to motivate and comfort. The evidence, he says, can be found in a politician’s rant or a cyber-bullying case.

A few years ago he was inspired to create a visual representation of the idea that people casually say and write whatever they want, without considering the consequences. The result is “The Power of Word,” an installation on display at Northeastern’s Gallery 360 through Oct 15.

“We don’t think before we talk,” says the Boston-area artist. “People often say God gave us two ears and one mouth, and we have to use them in that proportion.”
The two-part installation is comprised of the “cause” and “effect.”

The “cause” includes more than 50 clay masks, which Trajman says symbolize a crowd and remind him of the chorus in a Greek tragedy. Shards of wood spewing from the masks’ mouths represent uncontrolled speech and mesh metal frames behind each mask symbolize the idea that people are encaged by their own biases.

The “effect” is displayed on the wall opposite the masks, where photos and info-graphics shed light on the impact of negative words. On display are statistics about youth bullying and pictures of teenagers and young adults affected by bullying, including some who have taken their own lives.

The installation also includes a reflection wall for people to share their thoughts on the exhibit, which has been called “insightful,” “emotional” and “poignant.”

One person wrote, “There is so much power and meaning behind every word that leaves our mouths.” Others left notes about their personal experiences with bullying, including one person who penned, “It strikes a chord as someone who was bullied in middle school.”

Trajman grew up in Israel in a family of artists. His aunt was a painter and his uncle was a sculptor, and his sister is also sculptor.

He moved to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in urban design at Harvard and spent most of his professional life managing software companies in the high-tech sector.

Four years ago, he decided to make his part-time hobby a full-time career.

“I’m not naïve to think this one exhibit will change the world,” Trajman says. “But it might affect a few people, and if that happens, I’ve done my job.”