UNIT 2 Essay


UNIT2 Essay

21st June 2010

MA Visual Arts (Digital Arts) – Full Time

Varatorn Ratdilokpanich


Imperfectionist is an installation project based on a study on a relationship between typography and digital realm. The main idea of this project is to observe how humans perceive information through malfunction in digital mediums. This idea is based on a Japanese world view’s Wabi-Sabi, which believes in nothing lasts, nothing completes, nothing is perfect.

First of all, the idea of typography is raised by my personal interest in doing a project based on typographic elements. By using the most powerful communication tool such as typography, it is believed to be the most effective way to use in communication design. History of types and how society changes affect types were researched and studied through the first period, as well as famous typographers such as Wim Cromwell, Matthew Carter, Stefan Sagmeister and David Carson. One of the main changes in typographic history is the raise of Modernism, when artists believe in clean, simple, structure, and legible in typography. This is the period where Helvetica was designed and used widely as most artists and designers believe that it is the most perfect typeface. But as time goes by, there are developments and changes in typographic design. More artists and designers start to design and experiment new forms in typography. It is noted by David Carson that something legible does not mean it communicates.

The first proposal points out some main ideas of experiments on typography, using digital mediums to produce an interactive installation, based on investigation and observation to represent types are not just words. They can carry a lot of meaning in themselves and in all kind of ways, depends on individually perception and interaction. Interactive design and elements were studied, same as contemporary typographic design and motion graphics. Mostly types are widely used in films, especially in title sequences, to catch audiences eyes and give the credits more interesting to watch. Interactive design is also a secondary research, which I look at MAX/MSP and all other interaction designs. Some famous design agencies with outstanding pieces are found, for example, Sensory Minds and NUI Group. They produced interesting art works with interactions of sight, sound, and touch.

The researches and developments then lead to narrowing down the ideas for the project. After the symposium, the question focuses on transition of eyes with types. Observations are taken down from how people automatically look at types on signs, billboards, posters, etc. An experimental idea is raised and questioned how types force human mind to glance at/read them and collect information. Also the idea considers how environment around them can affect humans emotive responses because each person interpret information differently and individually. But what if types are deconstructed, would they represent original messages or something else. This question becomes a research topic which leads to investigations between decomposition and imperfection environments and typography.

By observing types displays around London, especially old posters and billboards in tube stations. There are scratches, bubbles, and moles which make those prints look disgusting and undesired. This observation leads to understanding everything in this world is not perfect. No matter how it looks so nice at first but as time goes by, everything is going to be gone one day. So this way of thinking becomes a main topic to study for this project. Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese world view of imperfect, impermanent, and Incomplete is found and used to be a key idea and development throughout this project. Wabi-Sabi is based on a concept of understandings and desires of imperfection in nature and it believes that nothing lasts, nothing completes, and nothing is perfect.

The idea then leads to a observation that everyone turns to technology and conveniences nowadays, it seems like everything around us is heading toward perfection. Advertisement presents excessively information and human wants to win nature with all those technologies. But Wabi-Sabi focuses on leaning toward naturalistic. To understand the imperfect nature instead of winning it. It is opposed to modern thoughts and this way of thinking helps slow down the way humans live, make them stop and think about their own aesthetics.

As this idea would be applied through digital medium, there are different ways to present this concept. The project moves from interactive to visual mapping on 3D objects, then after the mid-point review presentation, it moves towards comparing types on prints and digital. Helvetica is a chosen type as it is believed to be a perfect typeface. It becomes the main typeface to explore through the imperfect idea. Throughout the experiments, this typeface is laid out in different ways by researching and testing the typeface with different sizes, layouts, spacing and kerning. Types presenting on prints and digital mediums such as projectors and screens are also resulting differently. Typographic elements are needed to be considered carefully as each medium has a individual quality.

Jenny Holzer is the main practitioner to be explored. Her works use types to make very powerful sentences and project them on to different kinds of surfaces such as water, walls, buildings, and glasses. As each piece of her works creates a new environment in reading, it is not only about the audience readings of text. But also audiences get to absorb text, focusing word by word, line by line, to analise images and meanings.

After researches on Jenny Holzer and some others like P2, it is important to find ways to produce imperfection in digital. A DIY mixer from Karlklomp is a very good option to manually manipulate types on a screens. Others like glitch programing or malfunction in projectors are secondary options but not as effective as the mixer.

In the meantime, installation ideas are needed to be decided. The main consideration is to present prints, screen, and projected images on surfaces. There are developments from a lot of things on the wall to a very simple wall layout, yet effective. There are nine rectangular spaces to be displayed on the wall. The middle three are prints and a screen, and the other two sides (each contains three spaces) are projected motion video with surfaces.

First types layout is inspired by making things look perfect then break down everything, but it is not interesting enough. During the tutorials, there are some suggestions to play with random and intention words. Types can be conveyed in different forms which might look like words but also might not. The eye test plate is the main inspiration, which letters are placed perfectly but randomly as it does not make any senses. The concept is applied to the project where the sentences are produced first. Then each letter is placed on the space evenly. Each piece has different outcome but same result as it might look like types are placed everywhere which some are words and others do not make any senses. But when audiences give it times, around forty seconds, to analise and gather all letters together, there actually is a sentence and has meanings. So there are seven sentences overall. Three on each side, left and right. And one main sentence in the middle.

The DIY mixer is the starting point. There are few equipments have to be ready but it is not hard to produce. The mixer works fine but the project would be more effective if it is actually malfunction itself, either on wires, a screen, or a dvd player. But after testing again with another cable connecting with only the dvd player and the screen, it produces an unexpected result. Because the cable is quite old, the dvd player can not transmit a good signal and information and there is glitches combining with the image of types. Which it has the same result with mixer, but it is naturally malfunction not manually done.

Then, the second production is the motion video contain types layout and animation. Each letter is animated to faded in until each sentence finishes. There are times for audiences to read and figure out what it is, then each letter fades out slowly. The video has to be produced in the right resolution based on what kind of projector will be used. It is four minutes long and will keep looping. The types layout is in black letters and white background. It is the most readable way to present and colours are no use.

Another important thing for this projected video is applying a dynamic surface. The idea is based on pixelation of types in digital environment. Some experiments are tested out with the still layouts and video. There are tests on zoom in and out with different font sizes of Helvetica. Also studying a square pixel and how an edge of a letter can produce different colours. Based on these studies on pixelation, the idea is needed to be presented by using some specific materials to produce a surface. As pure glass can not be used because its low reflecting coefficient and high refractive index just make the incoming light beams deviate and not coming back. Acetate films and tracing papers are another solutions. But after testing, the acetate film does not catch the light as much as wanted and the tracing paper produces a good light catching but it is too thick and blocks everything. Also both materials are not stable enough to be hung. So the final solution for the surface is a mosquito-like fabric, which results an impressive light catching yet letting light to go through the fabric itself, creating imaginary effect. This fabric will be cut in big stripes and hung down from the ceiling in front of the projected wall, in different layers.

The final development is testing things out together in a given space. Everything is needed to be fit in the measured exhibit space and if there is any problems such as wrong screen size or not enough space for the projector, it is needed to be solved. The screen use in this project is 22” LCD screen, which can not be mounted on the wall and it can not be changed to another size anymore because of the space and fix measurements. So the screen will be placed on a plain pedestal by using its stand, in the middle of the wall. It will be also in the middle of two prints. The top print will be hang down from the ceiling, and the bottom print will be placed on the pedestal.

From the project and presentations, transferable skills can be achieved from researches contextually and practitioners. The history of typography leads to project developments on typography in digital realm and present in a new concept based on malfunction in technology. And by testing equipments and setting up a final installation, the techniques and results help full filling knowledges on digital typography with environment.

Moreover, this project work has presented opportunities for future development. It is not only about typographic understanding but also develop this understanding with other elements. From the studies on typefaces and typographic history, it leads from types on prints to typography in digital culture including types layout and setting. Knowing the differences and advantages/disadvantages from both sides gives the opportunity to clearly understand how types work in art and design. This project is an experiment installation to see how humans perceive through imperfect causes by technology. And also environments are tested and experimented. Everything works in real space which also has a lot of problems, but as mistakes are solved and learnt, knowledges are gain at the same time.

In conclusion, the practice which has been developed throughout this project will be continued by experiments on typography and digital installation in new ways, including typographic elements and environment. For types and environments, there would be a further experimentation on mechanical dynamic surface, as well as consideration on stable textured surface. For the technology itself, it would be taken further on experiments with human communication and types using interactive design which leans toward sensory and sound. Types will be placed in space and interact with humans visually and verbally. The idea of Wabi-Sabi will still be presented through works as it is an important message humans should consider. Further studies on imperfection and malfunction in technology will be carried on, including a study on types and environment. It is not about pointing the bad things of these aesthetics, but it is about giving a full understanding in nature and accepting imperfection.

  1. June 20th, 2010

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