Working against type: Opening gestures in word-based visual art
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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My practice-based thesis examines the effects of physical interventions on text and typography, and the signifying potential of these attributes in contemporary art. The title, Working Against Type, responds to common perceptions of textbased visual art, suggesting that viewable traces of production—the working— can alter the way we read, experience, and interpret words. Building from and working against assertions posed by a previous generation of word-based artists, I reveal the interventions as landing places where meaning is opened to include tactile, sensuous, and kinesthetic responses. The practice-chapters analyze the effects generated from three distinct physical approaches. The first, Breaking Words Apart, adopts a critically reflective stance to examine interventions on existing texts, as they unfold into mark, texture, absence, and abjection. Diverted from their conventional paths, the reader jumps, pauses and meanders, amplifying the performativity of reading. Messy Gestures observes the impacts of the artist’s trace in hand-printed text, where the abstracted and expressive letterforms adopt a ‘voice’ for the reader. The blemishes suggest words as unfixed and uncertain, challenging the authority of text, while offering the impressions as aesthetic encounters that expand the connotations of words. Words that move us examines how words are changed for someone who must physically relocate their posture or position while reading. Much of the text is hidden or closed off unless the viewer engages in some demonstrable shift of their body, a term I call choreogrammatics, which highlights the agency of movement on reading. Through this study, I identify how effects of physical interventions on typography can create interpretations outside and beyond the verbal, lexical reading. In so doing, I articulate a field of meaning for text-based artwork that has been overlooked.
PhD Thesis - School of Art and Design