Monday, 20 December 2010

Coming up for air. Drowning in Baudrillard.

Image above taken from the Matrix.

The problem with Baudrillard is that the proliferation of simulacra gives us nothing to grasp, no reality with which to forge weapons that can be used to fight back against the prevailing conditions of consumerism. However Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus find a way to think about levels of representation rather than simulations. Thus a double becoming looks towards the growth of potential. By combining ideas that are embedded within the representations that surround us, we can start to create anchor points. Then, Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of rhizomatic connections can be envisioned as a sort of flexible underlying grid, each intellectual move taking up another position on the grid that had not previously been used. These then become the lever points for new fables and stories created from unforeseen amalgamations of potential. (This could be seen as a type of philosophical big bang). From these new positions of leverage you can then fight back against Capitalism’s simulacra and overturn simulation with representation. Deleuze and Guattari state that this resistance is a collective project and locally the rise of new cooperatives such as the Leeds Creative Time-bank could be the type of organization from within which these changes might happen. Eventually these working bodies of self-supporting groups of connected individuals may inject themselves into the body of Capitalism as antibodies designed to eliminate and protect us against false consciousness.
What Deleuze and Guattari offer is a theoretical standpoint capable of re-reading Baudrillard's hapless world of illusion as a type of metamorphosis that offers up a range of leverage points for change. Set against the cynicism of postmodern ethics a new moral landscape emerges of hope and new possibilities. As artists and designers we can combine our talents and seek to re-touch the real through making and constructing our own narratives of representation. In the world of the Matrix it is interesting to see that the hollow book that represents simulacra and simulacrum is handmade with a green cloth binding with its title in embossed type. The prop no doubt made by an expert craftsperson. This craft is of course linked to the crafts of camera work, editing, special effects creation and all the other skills required by the community of film-makers. Debates in seminars have suggested to me that our ethical and moral world is one that needs rebuilding and perhaps one avenue we can take as artists and designers is to do this collectively alongside the collective sharing of our individual crafts. Is this perhaps a move towards a new type of guild system?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Conflict resolution and metaphor

The images of H block point out just how emotively powerful a simple letter can be. However typography can also be used to resolve conflict as well as being able to identify it.
Metaphor is not just a rhetoric trope. It achieves its effects via association, comparison or resemblance and the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another is very powerful. One area that this has been used is in conflict resolution. The diagram below is part of a conversation with an IRA prisoner in one of the H blocks Her Majesty’s Prison Maze.

Each line is numbered so that it can be recorded and easily retrieved. The numbering acts as a spine and the other person in the conversation has their speech set out to the left of the numerical column.
As a conversation evolves the task of the observer (this could be a computer analysing the data) is to highlight the way that metaphors become common to the two speakers.
Lynne J Cameron and Juurd H. Stelma’s paper 'Metaphor Clusters in Discourse' can be found in the Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol 1, No 2 (2004)

The article points out that they have developed software to examine the clustering of metaphors as they occur but the reality is that they are not a graphic designers and therefore the images created by the software lack clarity and have no sense of how typography can be used to represent voice.
If only a good type designer had been taken on board. This could have been resolved either in moving type by using ideas similar to: Where’s my money? or Who’s on First? or Pirates of the Caribbean text

Or the problem could have been solved using static type in a traditional way and thinking about the grid, typeface, size and colour as ways to structure and point out relationships as metaphors cluster.
The point for me is that this is a really useful tool and that a good typographer could make it even more useful. Lynne J Cameron teaches at the University of Leeds, perhaps someone should contact her and suggest that they could use the services of a good typographer.