Parole del Dolore (Pain words)

an interactive installation, promoted by Vivere senza Dolore - on display at SIMPAR 2014 - Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome.

in collaboration with:

Vivere senza dolore Onlus is an italian NGO that supports patients with chronic pain. In March 2013 they promoted a public initiative and asked citizens and patients to write a short sentence about their feelings and experience with pain.

The following year they contacted SEGE, a Milan based design agency, asking them for a possible way of making a good use of the 141 sentences collected the previous year.

The interactive installation “Parole del dolore” is an attempt to reward the effort of those people who attempted to describe in words their personal experience of pain.

" Drop a word in the ocean of meaning and concentric ripples form. To define a single word means to try to catch those ripples. No one’s hands are fast enough.

Now drop two or three words in at once. Interference patterns form, reinforcing one another here and canceling each other there. To catch the meaning of the words is not to catch the ripples that they cause; it is to catch the interaction of those ripples.

This is what it means to listen; this is what it means to read. It is incredibly complex, yet humans do it every day, and very often laugh and weep at the same time. Writing, by comparison, seems altogether simple, at least until you try. "

Robert Bringhurst “The solid form of language”
Sylvestre Bonnard ed - 2006

With this concise and broadly informative essay, renowned poet, typographer and linguist Robert Bringhurst presents a brief history of writing and a new way of classifying and understanding the relationship between script and meaning.

" Pain wipes out all the colours around me "

" Pain is pretending not to suffer. "

" Pain is like a bicycle crashing into a truck. "

" For me pain is like darkness. "

" It engulfs everything and sometimes it's difficult to see the light. "

All the sentences we worked with are authentic and genuine but they are not aphorisms to be framed like a painting. For this reason they do not appear alone on the screen but they are festooned, all together in a letter matrix.

Abanca madrid's headquarter
More than the sum of its parts

Sentences get highlighted but they are never isolated from the overall context, they never loose this collective condition which is enhanced by the fact that keywords and similar concepts, appearing in other sentences, are highlighted at the same time. Our approach to all these terms comes from a poetic rather than from a statistical perspective.

This is our proposal, together with other graphic effects that animate the throbbing of the letter matrix. The aim is to recall the complex experience of suffering from pain and the effort made to describe it using the language and its solid form: writing.

Those who will take their time in front of the screen to read the text will see their faces reflected in the color of the letters in the matrix; It will be not an ephemeral reward, but rather the first tangible effect of their willingness to share, for themselves, someone else’s experience.

Tech notes

Interactive digital installation, developed in Processing; OpenCV Library used for face detection. Runs on Mac Mini equipped with an external WebCam; 44 inch screen (minimum), 1280 by 756 pixels resolution.


SEGE is a Milan based Service Design's firm.

Since the 90's is active as digital strategic consultant for information design and web developpment.