Re: [PPLetterpress] Re: Materiality
- By materiality are you referring to what Marx, Hegel, the phenomenologists
and existentialists referred to as materialism?
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Well, my undergraduate minor was in Philosophy and half the department was
made up of phenomenologists and the other half was made of logical positivists
(if that's the correct term). They were in a constant undeclared war. At any
rate, I have a fairly ok background in this stuff. In fact, I was considering
pursing graduate studies under Glenn Gray, one of the more contemporary writers
So, to answer your question, in terms of a definition of materiality (Katie's
term), which, by dictionary definition, is a "material nature or quality," only
by linkage to that meaning. More to the point in terms of the discussion,
technology, and specifically, typography, I'd think you'd find more clarity in
this regard, in the work of Robin Kinross, who underpins his theoretical
arguments in _Modern Typography: An Essay in Critical History_ and _Fellow
readers: notes on multiplied language_ with consideration for the material
basis of typography (printing, and the accruements of).
There are, of course, several phenomenological studies on technology, though
they are somewhat outdated and do not take into acoount the new digital twist
in the road. But, we are moving a wee bit off track here I suspect.
Bryan Hutcheson wrote:
> By materiality are you referring to what Marx, Hegel, the phenomenologists
> and existentialists referred to as materialism?
- Since I'm being quoted, I guess I better weigh into this discussion about
the computer as a tool, etc. One of the more fascinating aspects of teaching
the history of graphic design is the way we (artists, designers and our
viewers, etc.) adapt to technological shifts. Seems like these technological
breakthroughs always start out being fancy ways of doing the same thing that
everyone is used to, and then subsequent generations find new things to do
with the new tools until a new aesthetic has been created, which then
becomes standard and all too soon, old hat. Back in the Renaissance, this
process took several generations; we are in a much faster lane and it seems
as though the techniques that the computer allows us to use become obsolete
even before they are perfected. This goes, all too sadly, for whatever good
and useful things that come out of the technological shifts. (I do not use
the term "technological growth," because I do not view technology as an
evolutionary or linear process that leads inevitably from inferior to
superior. In fact, I don't even view evolution that way, but that is another
One of the things that I point out to my students about previous
technological shifts is to look at the group of people involved in their
development and use. As we go through the centuries, those people have
changed from being an intellectual elite (the scholar printers such as Aldus
Manutius) to every Tom, Dick and Harriet creating his or her own web site.
More democratic, surely--I for one would never advocate a return to a time
when the vast majority of the population was ignorant and poverty stricken--
but not necessarily best for developing technology to its fullest in terms
of its content, form or use to society. What we have today is almost the
equivalent of everyone being able to print his or her own books in the
1500s. There is a lot of bad stuff out there, and those of us who are trying
to bail out the deluge with a thimble are losing the battle. But I'm sure
this is what the monks said about moveable type, no?
I have found that a lot of the recently revived interest in letterpress
coincides with a general return, in the graphic design industry, to
materiality, perhaps as a backlash against the computer, whose use as a tool
to create more and more eye candy is becoming old hat. A recent article in
PRINT talks about an entire wave of new design shops devoted to books and
materials and the new wave of three-dimensional forms that print media can
take, because this is where the "new" vocabulary of communication will come
from, and it's captured the imagination of designers and their audiences by
providing something more rewarding than eye candy on a computer screen. It's
a specialty market, of course, and if it thrives, it does so outside of the
mainstream. But it reminds us again that there is nothing new under the sun.
Ars Brevis Press
- Kathy has updated the website, and although she says she's not too pleased
with the way it looks on the wider screen she has access to at work, I think
it looks OK on the imac in the office here. Comments welcome!
But it does include the two latest books, one about some Bewick bookplates
and the other with some previously unpublished Seamus Heaney poems in it.
All good wishes
11A Printer Street
Oldham OL1 1PN England
(44) 0161 627 1966