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OPS Used Future

by Moritz Küng

According to Our Polite Society’s own brief, this very text isn’t supposed to be read, it is instead, to be looked at. It is a “placeholder”, notably known as Lorem ipsum and mostly used by graphic designers, typesetters and printers. It’s a substitute for a text to come – for a “real” text so to speak – that will hopefully never be read in a book, a magazine, or on a website, or heard in a speech, a play, or a song. In being redundant, ignored, probably even overlooked, what is the exact status of such a placeholder text? Is this text considered to be fake? To be mistaken for something else than a text? Thus, something else than a sequence of exact words forming sentences and suggesting meaning? What would the text as “something else” genuinely be? Would that text become an “image” (for example)? Or rather a substitute for an image and thus remain somehow a text, though without meaning? And if this text is considered to be purely an image, would its shapes (its “Gestalt”) be illegible? Having reached this point – where the text is indistinctly readable (blurred or blurry) or formulated (inconsistent in syntax), even incomprehensible (in an unknown foreign language) – would one actually seek for form and content? And what would be the meaning of all that? Would there be something meaningful at all? At last, and in absence of words, shapes and images, wouldn’t there be just a blank space, a void? And would this very vacuum have no meaning at all? Permit yourself to drift from what you are reading at this very moment into another situation … imagine a situation that, in all likelihood, you’ve never been in. In this instance, I would like to point out shortly three particular works by artists that all dealt with the notion of absent text or image in a reciprocal fashion. The aforementioned sentence forms the only content of the 36-page artists' book titled “…” Delay by Brit Cerith Wyn Evans¹. Conceived as a tribute to Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard – poème (1914), which could be considered as one of the first hypertexts, and Marcel Broodthaers’ artists’ book Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard – image (1968), itself a derivate in which the former texts were replaced by horizontal bars, Wyn Evans’ book contains a “found” sentence that runs in large silhouette letters, die-cut out of all the pages. Thus, not being printed with ink, the book appears as such blank while the negative and “absent” text remains legible. The absence of the printed word – invisible but existent – finds its likeness in the German definition of the placeholder text, named “Blindtext” (blinded text), unquestionably a quite poetic interpretation. Swiss conceptual artist Rémy Zaugg, known for his typographical paintings and thought-provoking essays about the nature of perception, the interconnection of the viewer, and the structuring of urban space, realized in the mid 1990s a series of canvases titled About blindness that contained the following sentence: SCHAU, IM AUGENBLICK BIN ICH BLIND, SCHAU.² Zaugg’s work establishes several contrasting momentums that also complement each other. The painting with a text set in Univers Extra Black fulfils here an active role by addressing itself directly to viewer, while the complementary colours – harshly clashing fluorescents on pure, solidly chromatic backgrounds; red on green, pink on ochre, green on fuchsia, or white on yellow – strain the eyes in an aggressive, almost painful way. Within this constellation it remains open, who’s the “blind” one (the artist, the viewer or the painting, respectively the text). Although the text becomes pictorial, the painting as such denies this mutation. Contrary to the aforementioned, the American poet Guy Williams proposed with his typewritten, untitled work from the series Poems for Painters³ a tautological approach in which he used all the characters of the alphabet together with all the numbers and some special signs. The final composition depicts the front of a typewriter and refers to all its individual keys, the carriage, space bar, shift key, even a decal. Although made on a laptop, I hope you get the picture of this digital self-made reconstruction:
(soft) 0 “ # $ % _ & ‘ ( ) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - M.R. Q W E R T Y U I O P 1/4 1/2 TAB A S D F G H J K L : @¢ Z X C V B N M , . ?/ 0 ______________________________________________________ 0 0 ( ) 0 ______________________________________________________
To conclude, whatever texts are used as placeholders – meaningful or meaningless – are pure poetry, exemplified by these two most popular sentences: “There is also no one who loves, seeks or wishes pain in itself” (translated from the corrupted Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit), and “A quick brown Fox jumps over the lazy Dog” (a pangram from 1885), of which the latter also exist in other languages (in German: “Franz jagt im komplett verwahrlosten Taxi quer durch Bayern” [Franz chasing in a totally rundown taxi across Bavaria], or in French: “Voyez ce jeu exquis Wallon, de graphie en kit mais bref” [Watch this exquisite Walloon game, written in kit form, however]). But, the purest form for a text never to be read remains the blank or absent one. Imagine the words in a virgin crossword puzzle or the narrative in an empty, blank book. Researching the latter for some time, I have collected thus far over a hundred titles published since 1960. However, emphasizing this very phenomenon would urge another text, in another Futura (sic).
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(1) Cerith Wyn Evans, “…” Delay (ed. Moritz Küng). Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009, unpaginated [32 pp.]
(2) Rémy Zaugg, Über die Blindheit (About Blindness) series, 1994–97, Aluminum, sprayed paint, silkscreen, sprayed clear varnish, 8 paintings, each 180.9 x 160.8 x 3.5 cm; in: “The Question of Perception”(eds. Javier Hontaria, Eva Schmidt), Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and Siegen: Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 2015, pp. 161–167
(3) Guy Williams, Poems for Painters. San Diego: Stooge, 1974; in: “The Art of Typewriting” (ed. Marvin and Ruth Sackner), London: Thames & Hudson, 2015, p. 48