Post-, Pre-

I've just ended a typographic project, for GraphicDesign&'s upcoming book, 'Page 1'. The research took me to some great early C20th type specimen books; one sandwiched here. Preparing a post on that, which involved some new variants of Make Do Type. Now thinking a lot about surface, material, for the project with ROLU. So this is a sort of buffer between the two.



A few weeks now since visiting Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990 at V&A. It did feel timely. A tough one to curate but something happened enough to make it resonate for weeks after. At the age and stage now to be presented with a lived-through history, which makes one much more aware of the edit and framework. In terms of the greedy eye — the elements which impact and feed concurrent working concerns — a film of Kazuo Ono, performing La Argentina, stopped my heart for a moment. Horrifying and beautiful in micrometrically equal measure (the c.1600s pre-perjorative meaning of the word 'grotesque' was fanciful, or fantastic). Rare to see an original form that shocks. This, attributed to Ono, sums it:

"There are an infinity of ways in which you can move from that spot over there to here. But have you figured out those movements in your head, or are we seeing your soul in motion? Even that fleck at the tip of your nail embodies your soul... the essential thing is that your movements, even when you're standing still, embody your soul at all times."

This 'embodiment' does remind me of the acute, needle-sensibility of Matthias Grünewald's The Crucifixion (1515) (via).

And the artificial limbs at the
Wellcome Collection's permanentMedicine Man displays.

Tatsumi Hijikata, it seems, was the founder of the dance-form Butoh; but somehow in parallel, they took the form forward, albeit with divided concerns. Hijikata's work was more violently trangressive in its themes and spectacle, borne of a post-war, 1968-catalysed rejection of an undue, superficial imitation of Noh and of the West; towards a subversive, truly Japanese form.

Oddly, appropriately, I took to bed midway through this post and had a Butoh-infused nightmare. The first corner turned in the show featured two long-held-heroes; Ettore Sottsass and Tadanori Yokoo. This poster (
via), from 1965. Learning from Las Vegas — as a documentation of the strip, rather than the later book — began in 1968. A group of the earliest works in the show are from this year too. Interesting to think of the student/worker protests as a cultural catalyst for Po-Mo. Born that year, so this genuinely felt like a lived-through span of a show.

Das Scweizer Plakat (1984) by Wolfgang Weingart, via MoMA.

And Kunsthalle Basel Kunstkredit (1976-77), also by Weingart; alsovia. A nice conversation was had, in front of Yokoo's and Weingart's posters, with some of my students. The Weingart characteristic is so much a product of its technical time; the make and then break with the Swiss typography amplified by the dot-screen photosetting of layers. Intrinsically planographic. But also the fragmentation is making evident the gridded alignments it breaks, so it's a respectful eruption. These were 'learning' posters for me, from an age when working out how something was made, from top to toe, was really important.

Adhocist Chair (1968) by Nathan Silver, via. The perfect incarnation of Charles Jencks' "using an available system". Furniture, architecture and ceramics to discuss from this show; perhaps in another post.