In this lecture we will take a look at the origins of writing around the world, seeing how different writing systems developed in different cultures. The forms that writing took in China, the Arab world and the West are very different, and have had a major influence on the history and technological development of the three cultures. All writing begins in the same way, as pictographic and then logographic system. But some writing develops into an alphabet, while other writing remains true to its logographic origins. Why is this, and what has it meant for the cultures in question? We will look at calligraphic versus typographic principles, the grid versus the flowing line in the design of letters. How do the two approaches influence the shapes of the letters; and what do they mean for the development of printing? This will be a whirlwind tour of writing around the world. In the end we need to ask if there is any place for hand-written communication. How much of our calligraphic heritage do we need to preserve to design good visual communication in the future?
Brody Neuenschwander is a text artist and calligrapher. He studied at Princeton University and the Courtauld Institute, where he completed his PhD in 1986. At the same time he studied calligraphy at the Roehampton Institute.
From the start, Neuenschwander asked serious questions about the place of calligraphy in the modern world. What is it? How is it used? Where should it be headed?
In 1989 Neuenschwander began a twenty year collaboration with director Peter Greenaway, providing live-action calligraphy for the films Prospero’s Books and The Pillow Book, as well as for the operas Writing to Vermeer and Columbus and many other projects.
Though the mark of the pen is usually present in Neuenschwander’s work, so are typographic letters, scratched letters, drawings and paintings. The question his work constantly asks is, "Is this an image or is this a text?"
In 2004 Neuenschwander taught at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, researching the development of text art in the 20th. Recently projects have included video installations, stained glass, monumental texts in metal and stage performances with live calligraphy.
Neuenschwander’s work attempts to bridge the gap between conceptual art and the acts of drawing, painting, writing. Neither the medium nor the message is the message. Both are involved in the dialectic between the artist and his experience of the world.