You’re A Typographer And You Don’t Know It

You’re A Typographer And You Don’t Know It

Three approaches.
1. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
2. Exquisite Corpse – A few Surrealists, chiefly André Bréton
3. Autobahn – Kraftwerk

I started with ‘maggie and milly and molly and may’ by E.E. Cummings.

E. E. Cummings’s original draft with notes

I desperately wanted to avoid an approach that either tried to illustrate/express the poem’s topic rather than its meaning or was typographically literal, i.e. f a s t, heavy, LOUD, etc.

E. E. Cummings poem is only about four girls going to the beach (one day) – I am not a scholar of E. E. Cummings, but it would seem to me (and some others) that it is about how we approach the world, the beach represents a surface of our reality and we choose how we experience the world, whereas the sea deeper reality of ourselves. This is rooted in both his religion and transcendentalism. While I was struggling to avoid the trope-mines of expressive typography, I became convinced that he must have read Moby Dick, an anti-transcendentalist piece of literature and one of the most famous first lines in the history of literature (at least within my cultural world), so I thought to contrast the two; it started as an exercise, but it took quite long. The complete text of Moby Dick was to represent the vastness of the ocean, with Cummings’s four girls playing near it or next to it. I really liked how the text turned out looking vast and unintelligible with some (perhaps errors) looking like white caps, and I somewhat abandoned maggie and milly et al and focused in on the famous first line and the Starbucks connection.
Starbuck – Chief Mate in Moby Dick, Starbucks initially imported coffee, tea, and spices near the wharf in Seattle, named itself after the character and used a Norse (or German) woodcut of a siren as a symbol of exotic imports, their later logo stemming from a combination of Il Giornale’s Futurist looking logo and the aforementioned woodcut), but I digress.

Abandoned Cummings and Melville Mash-up.

So it turned into a typographic treatment of Melville’s Moby Dick, and I suppose it is perhaps cheating by using a whale image, though I would contend that I could have created a similar effect by changing the colour of the text but I wanted the whale to appear and disappear based on the viweing angleby using a lot of transparent base and pearl white ink on top of the ink-jet printed text.

I ordered a Mocha because of Mocha-Dick and used the name Ishmael which caused some raised eyebrows. I liked the idea of spillage as something going wrong. In a way it is a bit literal, Moby Dick is not about a whale, it is about obsession and what happens when a democracy goes wrong, etc, but because of the Starbucks connection, it doesn’t feel literal. I’d like to think that the whale maintains its metaphorical value in this piece

Meanwhile, I had become interested in The Exquisite Corpse poem by the Surrealists surrounding André Bréton. It being meaningless, I wanted to use typography and process to represent the process of its creation. I couldn’t get close to a photocopier to abuse, which was a good reason to go back to screen-printing. Initially, I had wanted to use the Jeanne Moderno Geometrique typeface and imagined it to look something like this

Jeanne Moderno Geometrique – Tom was right, but I still kind of like it

However, Tom made the valid point that it was mostly letting an unusual typeface do the work, and recommended I choose something less dominant and let the process also do some of the work, which I thought was good advice. I chose Bodoni as it has a bit of character and it might be upon what Jeanne Moderno was based. So back to the darkroom and screen printing.

This won’t take long…

My least favourite (perhaps) visually is my favourite in terms of expression. By folding the paper, much like they must have done during their initial poetry game – the folding itself, not the actual exact folds the layout – sort of – created itself

Lastly, to get away from oceans, transcendentalism, and surrealism, and just to be a bit literal and fun, as well as include some German with teh French and English, I used Kraftwerk’s Autobahn piece, which might be about Germany dealing with its Nazi past, or just a reflection on the monotony of daily life and individuals trapped in metal coffins detached from other humans speeding towards an unavoidable end…or, maybe something completely different altogether.

It is fairly literal, and yet – in this case, I don’t mind at all. It’s just a bit of fun. I like that the first line (which also serves as the monotonous chorus) is at the bottom, mimicking road markings, while the following short verses (and main content) allude to directional Autobahn signs.

It might also be a bit of a remnant of last week’s pieces, but if you are going to burn four screens, you might as well burn five. i don’t mean to belittle it, I genuinely quite like it, and it was harder than I thought it would be to get the sense of signs disappearing into the distance and work with a 2-point perspective (of sorts.)

But enough with the screen printing for now. I still enjoy it, and I think it maybe helped as a process this week, but using a photocopier, scanner, or shotgun, or any other piece that could create somewhat random results may have afforded me more time (or less stress)

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