E: Wow yeah that is definitely one way to end an entry. I think it may be important at this point to distinguish between the alphabet and letterforms that we attribute as having meaning and the actual representation of these forms themselves. The former deals with the thinness of language and societal connection whereas the latter deals with the representation/realization of the former. I think.
In typography, each font that is made is an attempt to make real some position on how letterforms should exist. Maybe it is an existential realization? In fact it probably is. But it is a much more personal one. This discussion makes me think of Max Bill's Continuity and Change essay which continues to influence my way of thinking and practice to this day. He argues that gestalt and design is the constant testing of forms in order to achieve some idealized form. Whether or not this true form exists may not even matter; what matters is this constant designing and redesigning of the same thing (he uses the spoon as an example, which as it turns out, is the origin story of my love for spoons). Fonts are just a way to design language – a visual way at that.
I've been reading Angie Keefer's piece Why Bother and it has gotten me thinking more about language and rules. Another really interesting piece on language I read recently was Borges' Library of Babel. I don't necessarily want to say more now, but I think often about how letterforms exist the way they do because we decided as a whole that they should. And even then, there is always potential for redefinition. Imagine a piece that interpolates between two languages – starting in one, and ending (through a series of redefinitions of words or constructs) in another. Perhaps now, I am conflating letterforms and words..
E: It has been quite some time since we last conversed. Since then, I had an intense month in which my senior show w-t-f was born, evolved, and finally exhibited at Princeton. The process of developing the show as both about the work and about the exhibiting of graphic design was an interesting one, particularly given the point on context you bring up.
I wonder if it is possible to say that decontextualizing work by removing the client brief is good enough. After all, there are still societal, cultural, "of our time" contexts that operate on a piece of work (art or commercial) which are inescapable. Perhaps also there is a difference of doing graphic design in a vacuum (the institution) and practicing it in a studio. I do, however, like the point that you bring up about individual style as context.
One of the pieces that I've been reading recently is Paul Elliman's "My Typographies." It is a reminder that the layer of visual language applied onto the world is both highly subjective and extremely thin. At some point, someone decided that the form for an 'A' would look the way it does and there it goes. But this decision is ultimately, consciously or not, divisive throughout society. I am now thinking of the difference between western and asian languages.
There is also the whole idea of graphic design as kitsch, which then can be used as propaganda in order to influence the masses. At least, that would be the perspective of Greenberg's "Avant-garde and Kitsch" essay which I found both pretentious and agreeable.
One thing I have been fascinated with of late is the idea of found typography – nothing novel at all, but nevertheless I am interested in both the place specificity of language (I was recently in New Orleans where the culture and language is significantly different than the East Coast) and the artificial defining of a new character set in order to convey meaning.
E: I am Sitting in a Room is one of those audio pieces that is legendary amongst a certain group of people. The text spoken by Alvin Lucier during the piece states, “I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.” This activity then has the possibility to be repeated ad infinitum.
Like I am Sitting in a Room, I think that Under Consideration will also eventually resolve into some resonant form of conversation – or is it relationship? Without any rules to guide this project, its form (and content) are constantly in flux, with the only rule that it be a constant transformation of information between two individuals (a conversation). If holding a conversation ad infinitum holds the potential for revealing the resonant frequencies of this medium, I wonder what else is out there. It seems as though repetition, or perhaps recombination, is key...
E: I think you bring up two really interesting points here. The first is that of the militarization of language. That makes me think of the common saying that graphic design (and also art) is political. I think that the desire to make language un-understandable or to attempt to depoliticize something is inherently misguided. It is impossible to separate some sort of propagandistic meaning from anything we do and any attempt to do so will only be successful to us – likely a failure in the view of others and most likely alienating. I think that in addition to this politicization of a medium (which again – the decision to perform Under Consideration as a public conversation on Are.na is also a political one; why do we not use Facebook, for example?), contemporary visual art and graphic design has the added challenge of context. I wonder then, what it means to decontextualize graphic design. I believe many exhibitions that feature graphic design tend to be extremely flat because they often present the pieces without any context.
The second point is the note on process and beginning/ending. I surmise that Lucier most likely did not know the output of I am Sitting in a Room when he first attempted it (though he may have had an idea of what it might turn out to be). Through the process of recording and rerecording, he discovers and illustrates this phenomenon of resonance. If you take either the first or last recording, neither is particularly interesting without the intermediary ones – the ones that actually form the process.