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Materia Prima, text-as-image

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It is with the materiality of language, or Materia Prima, that this article concerns itself, reflecting upon the ‘surface’ of text, as an image in its own right. The oral or spoken/auditory/acoustic qualities of language have long been held to be aesthetically central to literature and poetry. The philosopher Richard Shusterman describes this phenomenon as a lack of attention to those instances when the ‘visible is visible’, this phrase relying upon a distinction between two meanings of the word ‘visible’. The first suggests being ‘able to be seen’, while the second suggests the ‘conspicuous’ or ‘strikingly manifest’ aspect(s) of the seen (or passive and active modes of the visible). The printed surface of language, where the ‘visible is visible’, has traditionally been viewed as irrelevant in philosophical accounts of language, from Plato to Wittgenstein, where, frequently, language is broken down only into ‘the sound aspect’ and ‘the meaning aspect’. However, this article will argue that the knowledge that artists, designers, typographers and illustrators bring is that the material word is a crucial partner in the production of meaning, by engaging with those practitioners whose work interfaces with these concerns, both directly and indirectly.

Keywords: discourse; figure; paradox; plasticity; sensual logic; surface; text-as-image; visibility

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jwcp.4.3.309_1

Affiliations: The University of the Arts, and The University of Westminster

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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