Livraison, a contemporary arts journal and, on the occasion of this issue, a journal of graphic design, addresses the field of language and typography.
Physical matter of writing and of the thought that it materializes, typography is the meeting point of a linguistic content and a visual sign, of an idea and the shape it is given in order to maintain it. By its shape, its origin and its style, typeface engages its own history into that encounter, and becomes the vehicle of a rival meaning that cannot be dismissed. Out of this overlapping of signs – plastic/linguistic – surfaces a discourse on discourse, a meta-discourse where the possibilities of enunciation are determined by the endless options provided by typographic production.
The shape of a letter refers to a culture, a time, and a context. By overlaying typographic languages of different times, Peter Bil’ak’s History updates these references, and answers to Frutiger with a higher bid: inverted Univers, History noisily surfaces out of an additive mix, whereas the spare skeleton of Frutiger’s font was the result of a subtractive synthesis. “History” is also examined in the contributions by Benoît Buquet, Sonia de Puineuf, and Victor Guégan, in the light of avant-garde languages. Relying on the artistic excitement in early 20th century, Olivier Deloignon addresses the immediacy of signs imposed on onlookers in the time of reading. But if the language of the sign can be deduced from its historical mutations, the sans serif lineal seems to challenge that legacy: Annick Lantenois resumes the study of functionalist radicalism and the will to “negotiate with the negative connotations associated to emptiness and void” in 20th century.
The issue of connotation, beyond its moral value, is an opportunity for Stéphane Darricau to come back to the difficult problem of the choice of type – one among others – and the consequences. A literary text, a shop sign, a name in the end credits of a movie… the ubiquitous typographic shape changes our perception of information. Vivien Philizot examines the use value of typeface by replacing it in a specifically human context that works out a large part of the practices, tastes, fashions, conventions, codes and rules producing the social relationships of both producers and readers.
Typing a word, a sentence or a text, means displacing its meaning; and that meaning escapes its enunciation. Robert Bringhurst reminds us that “typography is to literature what musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation […]”(1). The musicality of letters and language is explored in contributions by Pierre Rœsch, Jean-Baptiste Levée, and in the recent work of Luc(as) de Groot on phonetic characters. Changing points of view, figured language extends the scope of research to literature, modulated by letter drawing. Lucille Guigon – having recently completed a post-degree program at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design in Amiens – also explores the field of language with a typographic creation that sculpts text and subtly diverts perception. Alejandro Lo Celso grounds his own work on the universe of Perec by proposing a large family of characters of the same name; Roxane Jubert, collaborating with artist M.A. Thébault, delivers a typographic “play” under constraint based on the sonority of letter J; and Titus Nemeth, with his Nassim, reintroduces the issue of relationships between different writing systems.
But typography, as an “art of writing artificially”(2), remains subjected to science and technology. This field is invested by Caroline Fabès and Sébastien Truchet – both also having graduated at the school of Amiens – who systematically and mathematically deconstruct the material of text and letter. At the limits of visibility, Minuscule by Thomas Huot-Marchand tests the habits and the abilities of readers. Articulating signs, words, and texts, Kader Mokaddem presents a series of textual mappings – a work completed with the students of the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design in Saint-Étienne. In a nearby approach, Fabrice Sabatier addresses short forms, between irony and the derisiveness of the everyday.
By opening new lines of thought and crossing itineraries, this specific issue wishes to explore the relationships that typography maintains with language, a structuring feature of our relationship to the world. Typographically figured, the field of language is reorganized in a transversal way. More than any other visual practice, typography cannot do without the speech that goes through it, nor can it spare its creators bound to update its conditions of existence