Ecstatic Alphabets / Heaps of Language at New York’s Museum of Modern Art has brought together 12 contemporary practitioners and an estimable spectrum of key 20th Century artists who do as the Dadaists do and eschew rational structures of language, form, sound – taking language, in particular typography, and “freeing it from its communicative and descriptive duties.”
Using all possible media, it’s a reinterpretation of written communication by designers, writers, performers, poets and artists, from Tauba Auerbach’s segment display paintings, essential concrete poetic works from the likes of Marcel Duchamp, spoken word by William Borroughs and Laurie Anderson and, notably, an installation by British graphic designer Paul Elliman.
Elliman has been collecting man-made objects – cutouts, offcuts, outtakes and takeaway cutlery – and building a kit of parts out of which he has created a usable font where no character is used more than once. For any designer/communicator, it’s a fascinating and liberating way to approach typography and Elliman’s growing collection has been of some interest to artists and designers alike since it’s start at the end of the 1980’s.
It’s exciting that typography and language is getting so much attention and Elliman’s Found Font is just one facet to a full spectrum of contextual and critically contemporary work that is being produced to continue the wilful misuse of words so that we might discover new ones to describe them better.