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Materia Secunda, text-as-image

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This article is an extension of the arguments and examples offered in ‘Materia Prima, text-as-image’ (Calvert 2012), where the materiality of language was foregrounded, rather than its transparent role in communication. The claims of neutrality to content in ‘The Crystal Goblet’, made by Beatrice Warde, alongside ideas from various philosophical sources were contrasted with the work of concrete poets, artists and designers, whose free play with materiality in language upsets those relatively uncomplicated notions of transparency to content. The current article proposes that in the next stage of this argument, we might think of the materiality of language in terms of a kind of ‘event’, or ‘constellation’, in which the raw materials of language (whether writing/typography/speech) are fully mobilized and enacted. This performative stage, which harnesses the dynamic attributes of language, is grounded by reference to Deleuze’s theory of the event, as well as Adorno and Benjamin’s notion of ‘constellation’. Katherine Hayles, VillĂ©m Flusser and others are used to support the contention that we might think of materiality and performativity/gesture in language as a form of content. Lyotard’s Discourse, Figure is invoked as a way to describe a different space of interaction between the textual and the figural, one where the distinction between them is erased. Examples from art/design/typography are offered to support these points.

Keywords: constellation; discourse; event; figure; language; materiality; performativity; plasticity; surface; transparency

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Central St Martins College of Art and University of Westminster

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • Book 2.0 is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal that publishes articles and reviews about historical, modern and contemporary book creation, design, illustration and production. Since its founding in 2010, Book 2.0 has explored topics that have included children's literature and culture, traditional and modern storytelling, oral literature, poetry publishing and the enormous efforts being made by Indigenous speakers and their supporters to secure and sustain endangered languages.
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