To some, myself included, typography and typeface don’t initially strike an artistic chord. At least, that’s how I considered them prior to the Boston Society of Architect’s latest exhibit StereoType: New Directions in Typography. The showcase, open until May 25, 2015, displays several iterations of how letters can be assembled, transformed and engaged with. And I’m not talking just ink and paper here.
The inaugural show kicked off with a rendition of Dutch artist Remco van de Craat’s Ashes to Ashes, a performance in which he ignites a thin, specially treated paper by lightly dotting it with a smoldering pin. From the pinpoints, the paper burns outward slowly, something of a ripple effect, creating several beautifully charred shapes against the pale paper.
Before enjoying Ashes to Ashes, which runs some two- to three-minutes, as a saxophonist added a jazzy musical dimension in the background, the co-curators of StereoType gave me a tour of the exhibit and opened my eyes to the abounding creativity in the world of typography.
“The germ of this project started in 2010,” said Ginger Gregg Duggan, one half of the brain that conceived StereoType. “We were in Tel Aviv for another project. We saw Oded [Ezer], one of the designers for the show, and started looking at his work.”
Oded is just one of a bevy of artists from around the world to have their work shown in StereoType. In fact, he has two substantial works on display, both of which infuse digital technology with the way we perceive letters.
“Feedback” is a revolving screen projection with dystopian feel. Several mouths open and close to form letters as they sweep across the screen in an autocratic, Big Brother-esque fashion.
His second installment, aptly called “SkypeType,” features a series of screenshots per Skype conversations in which his correspondents hold up several letters and numbers to create messages. In 2009, “SkypeType” went viral and was featured in Print magazine, reading “Every improvement in communications makes the truth less visible.”
Technology has added a new element to typography that both enhances and inversely estranges it.
“Technology is both using typography and working against it, ” said Judith Hoos Fox, co-curator. ”So I think with some of the works in the show, one would think they have historical counterparts but mostly they do not.”
Added Gregg Duggan, “Some [artists] embrace the technology, some turn away from it.”
Not all the pieces include a technological component, though. Some boast literary references, scientific applications, foreign alphabets and articles of clothing.
“It was that kind of rethinking typography to include time and space in the fourth dimension, performance, animation, science and all kinds of things,” continued Hoos Fox. “Seeing type is a way of looking at the world.”