The Science of the Letter as a Meta-Language
Part2ism Letter composition in West London 2010
“Look at some of the eastern languages. For instance, Japanese has two sets of alphabets that consists of at least 46 characters each set. Now consider that it evolved from the Chinese language which consists of millions of characters and imagine elaborating on that. The English alphabet isn’t much, especially in it’s current state. By comparison it’s like a dot. Why not go beyond that and just create an alphabet or language? You can’t put a limit on communication or how one can communicate, you’ve always got to look further, that’s how style expanded in the first place.”
(Phase 2: Style: Writing From The Underground (R) evolutions of Aerosol Linguistics)
In the beginning was the word and the word was made fresh! A word is merely a combination of letters arranged in such a way, so that we can decipher meaning or define something/someone or plainly speaking, anything at all for that matter. These basic electromagnetic vectors in actual fact, describe everything around us that exists and we frequently depend and rely on the letter in all aspects of our lives. One argument I remember in the 1980’s, regarded the letter replacing the icon, as the new central figure in art. It never happened in the fine arts, although many youthful minds of outsiders excluded by the system re-defined the letter for themselves to develop identity and a new public presence of their own. From the humble beginnings of simply writing your name, a new visual language blazed a trail through the lines of transport networks and also onto the infinite concrete surrounding us. The letter as we knew it, was de-constructed by the competitive nature of individuals, 100% committed to taking type to it’s furthest limits. With next to no formal art training, this was an art derived by the people, for the people in the most depressing economic circumstances. In the face of adversity, the simplest name as a logo was transformed into a highly complex network of post cubist, constructivist, futurist, brutalist and postmodernist bombs, armed with arrows and missiles. These letters were designed to ‘burn’ all competition, and were most commonly termed as wild-style.
“We are talking about where graffiti originated, where hardcore war went down with markers against markers and letters against letters. You think war is always shooting and beating everybody but no, we had the letters fight for us.”
(Ramm:Ell:Zee Art-forum 1988)
I recall sitting in a bar with Ramm:Ell:Zee late one night in Marseilles and the bartender asked us if we were with the military, obviously due to our English/American accents. Ramm bellowed “Hell yeah, we’re with the military!” I still laugh about this today, knowing that the bartender had absolutely no idea that Ramm was talking specifically about the militarization of art letters. He believed wild-style was only in it’s embryonic stage and that the arrows extending off the letters needed to be more finely detailed to show what was actually being directed. He referred to his letters as armored tanks and defined his practice as Ikonoklast Panzerism. One of the first to move away from letter styles rooted primarily in painting and into the realm of what he termed ‘total realism’. Zee constructed real and physical alphabets of letters as armored vehicles in full military function, a set of complete masterpieces.
Letter As Tank
“This “chorus” of character-letters represents action better than a protagonist. Rammellzee eliminates himself from what he does; he is a biological entity which channels energy, he is a tool through which structures of universal truth channel themselves. he is not a name, he is not a person. it is the letter that dictates what he does.” (Edit Deak)
“Galileo and the rest of the brothers, they always left something that they know will stick to the letter and this time the letter’s sticking for itself. Once the letter has armed itself it is in it’s own military function. This time diseased culture is not going to send out another diseased culture to relay a message but will send a letter and the letter is going to relay the message.”
“The letter is the character. not the human. The letter is re-building its structure itself. This time I’m not going to send out another human body to relay a message that I’ve written down, because that body might say something different. In a war against symbols which have been wrongly titled the letter is the only thing which can fight. Not a human being, no tree, no nothing, no landscape. Not a boxer. The human body can never be a master piece. Hows many malfunctions does it have daily?” (Ramm:Ell:Zee)
Letter as Pure Composition
Fundamentally, I’ve always worked within a tight set of self implied rules. I’m interested in several different dynamics in my work that concern the medium itself and the pure elements of letter construction. I never include characters or figurative elements alongside my letter compositions, it’s the letter form itself in it’s purest state that interests me the most. All my figurative concepts have always been kept at a great distance from my word based configurations, since the letters themselves embody a total composition, and a successful piece should not not contain any characteristics of a mural in my opinion. My figurative works for example are based on realist painting concepts and the exploration of the spray can as a fine art tool, so these works I place in a completely separate territory. The deconstruction of letter forms for me is an explorational practice in itself, observing the letter as a transitional object in a state of political transformation. We even refer to letters as characters, so why would we even need to juxtapose them with iconic characters.
Word as Virus
According to William Burroughs the word is itself a virus, a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Burroughs believes the word has not been recognized as a virus because it has received a stable symbiosis with the host. The letter science of wild-style or Ikonoklast Panzerism could perhaps be considered, the ultimate resistance to such a host. The slanguage of rhyming (as in Hip Hop) stems from the same DNA as writing culture, the flipping of words in repetitive sequences, mirrors the systematic arrangements of burners against burners. Letters and words join, connect and explore new pathways but are all intrinsically linked simultaneously. Each have changed and influenced mass media culture on an enormous scale, but inevitably, this popularity has inevitably stripped these movements of their original social role. The host seems to have developed immunity and injected antibiotics into what should have a larger role in todays art hierarchy. Through the lure of money, the host and virus have attained a state of benign equilibrium. If what we represent is a new visual language or a potential future avant garde, then it’s imperative for us as artist’s to challenge our own status quo. We know whats been done and what’s already derivative and co-opted, so how can we not try to transcend it? How can we not attempt to mutilate it?
As much as we identify with the spatial politics associated with the location of where much of this work is produced, politics also undermine the practice of letters due to it’s association with the spray paint medium itself. However, the majority of todays more icon or image based work that is created with spray paint doesn’t seem to face the same amount of scrutiny or discrimination. Ironical, the letters themselves are highly politically charged. We use text everyday, why is it so difficult for society to understand type being used in this way. We are in fact very much the ‘language’ in every sense, so why do we not question it? Is the written language not crucial to our existence as much as the image? Another question is, what is an image in todays advertising world without a linguistic code? In the same way ‘myth’ transcends a concept behind the rhetoric of an image with the use of a textual interjection, myth can also transcend the letter into a pure abstract language, a meta-language. Also, I must ask the question, what exactly is a contemporary art scene that cannot understand or relate to a world seen through the eyes of it’s own people, living in the heart of chaos left in the aftermath of a post-modernist world? Well informed writers already know how to transcend the letter and language, and split it’s linguistic atoms to produce a pure universal abstract form. The letter does co-exist with architecture and embodies architecture in it’s own structure. Time to keep this movement moving, art in transit is also transit in art.
“Conceptuality does not necessarily play an essential role in the wake or aftermath of a stylistic seizure. The piece at it’s esoteric or most complex level is more like an object to be absorbed, not comprehended. It exists with the reasoning that it can be done and therefore must or should be done.”
(Phase 2: Style: Writing From The Underground (R) evolutions of Aerosol Linguistics)
Part2ism Future Love Song, Whitecross Street, East London 2011