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click opera
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Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 12:10 am
A girl with four eyes, cooking with type

As a bit of a graphic designer manqué myself, I'm interested in the fuzzy area where art and graphic design merge. I was particularly excited, for instance, to attend a sort of "documents opera" at the ICA in London in late May, entitled True Mirror Microfiche. This involved the conceptual designer-slash-art team Dexter Sinister performing texts in a theatre, with the assistance of various friends, using an array of overhead projectors, drumkits and amps, laptops and pieces of paper. It seemed to me that the formal qualities of paper documents were very much to the fore in this "opera", and I enjoyed the invitation to fetishize an endangered medium.



Another project which brings out the paper fetishist in me is Yukiko Sawabe's Great Type Designers Series. I've known Yukiko for almost ten years, and happened to be collaborating with her around the time the idea to celebrate typographers occurred to her. Yukiko came to Berlin in 2005 to research the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Allerleirauh, which she planned to use in an art piece. We made several pieces of music inspired by the Grimm tale, which concerns a king who weds his own daughter.



A year or so later, I was surprised to hear from Yukiko that, with the help of her friend Mariko Takeuchi, she had transformed one of these songs -- the "King Song" -- into an ode to the typographer Claude Garamond. You can hear the second version of the song -- featured in the 2007 Kappan Saisei Ten Letterpress Printing Revive exhibition in Sangenjaya -- here.



After a run at Keibunsha Bookshop Gallery in Kyoto, Yukiko's exhibition "Typo recipe: Notes about Japanese Type Cases" is showing at Calo Bookshop Gallery in Osaka until August 8th. The exhibition resurrects the dying art of letterpress. "I will collect typo recipes from artisans and edit recipe books like a mother passing on to her daughter home cooking recipes," says Yukiko.

On a corrugated cardboard umadana (uma=horse, dana=shelf, and together they make a special shelf used for Japanese type) Yukiko is displaying colour-coded photos of Japanese type cases. The exhibition also features portraits of a letterpress artisan called Takashi Kobayashi, who runs one of the few remaining letterpress factories in Tokyo. Kobayashi made his own "type cookbook" entitled The Tale of Letterpress.



Japanese typecases are called sudare. In an ironic gesture -- for it's computer fonts and printers which are killing the letterpress printing process -- Yukiko turned two sudare cases inside out, painted them silver, and added the Apple logo to make a Sudare MacBook. "Everybody has a little umadana now," Yukiko says.

She has also created a kanji distribution map, marking 2000 out of the 9300 Chinese characters on 31 sheets, colour-coding them according to type, and providing a coloured gel viewer to see the groups with. According to an old Chinese legend, Soketsu -- the creator of the Chinese character system, and intelligent enough to grasp four classifications of kanji at a time -- had four eyes. The gel viewer therefore provides "Soketsu-scope"; normal two-eyed humans can't use the device properly. Yukiko has chosen to portray this Chinese prodigy as a four-eyed girl, and printed her face on a white dress.



I personally find the monstrous face of Soketsu-as-a-girl a little hard to look at, but then I'm a limited creature with only one working eye.

Originally published July 21st as a blog entry on the website of Japanese art magazine ART-iT.

28CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)

as good as your one eye is, having two would hardly be fair for the rest of us, n'est–ce pas?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)

Jordan is not really a threat. I don't see how Laura can survive into next week. Ronnie is intent on evicting her and it's not like she really has any close allies anyway.

I see Casey as being a Dan/Adam combination--slightly goofy, but competent enough to stick around. I see Russell as more of a Ryan/Memphis type, stronger A-type male, who is probably too aloof and self-centered to win enough of the household over to his side by the end of the competition.


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subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 07:41 am (UTC)

Not only 4 eyes but 8 pupils!

It's funny, when I first saw the title here, I assumed that you meant Yukiko wore glasses. In fact, even when I read the rest of the post, I still "remembered" her wearing glasses in the photo near the top till I just scrolled up again for another look...

What does this part mean?
...intelligent enough to grasp four classifications of kanji at a time...

I can't quite grasp what those "four classifications" are...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 08:04 am (UTC)

I don't know Chinese, so I'm just going on what Yukiko told me, but I assume Chinese characters are grouped into families or types, and that Yukiko is identifying these on her 31 sheets of paper and marking them in different colours which can then be isolated with the viewer.

The prodigal multi-tasking eyes of Soketsu are quite similar to the multi-tasking ears of Shotoku Taishi, who could listen to ten different conversations at the same time and understand them all.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)

I'm just not following any of this.

Right from the beginning, this whole "click opera" thing has been like some spaghettifying yarn of yawn, but I cannot stop myself reading it.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Thu, Jul. 23rd, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)

ok, yes, i think you're right.

the earliest chinese classification had 6 types, but only the first 4 you mention would make sense, i guess, for the supposed creator of the system. (the other 2, phonetic loans and derivative cognates, would have to come later.)


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)

Momus, what do you make of the fact that Barry Greaves is back from the dead (http://twitter.com/twit_opera)?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)

The whole Barry thing is very sad. I'd love to believe that Barry was somehow still with us, but I don't think we should get our hopes up just because his feed appears to show some activity.

What you're seeing there is the parapsychological activity experts call "flitter". The Twitter feed of a deceased person can sometimes continue to show reflexive or autonomic activity for some time after they die, a bit like a headless chicken or an eviscerated squid, due to a combination of electronic ectoplasm, posting templates and auto-complete scripting in the computers involved. When a feed "flitters", it flips around helplessly like a dead fish.

We can tell this isn't the real Barry, though, because the quality -- Barry's masterful presence of mind -- just isn't there. This feed is the walking dead. Take today's flitter: "Let me repeat that I've been published by Dexter Sinister." It's immediately obvious that this is material we've already seen on Twit Opera. What's more, it doesn't fit today's Click Opera entry at all -- there's no claim in the article about Yukiko to have been published by Dexter Sinister.

It's been a sad business, but I think we need to accept that -- flitter-flipping and other spookery aside -- Barry is no longer with us. The shallow hope offered by the phantasmagoric spatter that clogs the twitfeed just makes the real Barry all the more missed.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)

Twit Opera's always been patchy: I guess some Click Opera entries are easier to ridicule than others. I have full confidence that s/he will once again scale the heights. "Bildungsroman about Scottish masturbators" - come on, that's not too bad.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)

My new Bildungsroman about Scottish masturbators is out now.

See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. The Book of Jokes is a Bildungsroman. The passage about Scottish masturbators is in The Book of Scotlands, which isn't by any stretch of the imagination a Bildungsroman. What seems to have happened is that Barry wrote a good line for the September release of The Book of Jokes and stored it in Twitter in template form. The feed, running adrift after his death, flittered it in advance.

You have to apply the same tests to the feed you would a Bin Laden cassette. Does it reference contemporary events accurately? And does it sound like Barry? In this case we get a no and a yes respectively, which indicates flitter.


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lickintoadz
lickintoadz
Venus in Furs
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)

I want that tank top in the worst way.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)

Fuck him. Flittering around the astral plane like a wounded bird. I'll not mourn the sad bastard. He lived a good life in his parent's attic doing his silly little momus impersonations and receiving regular meals. All that is left to do is dance on his grave.



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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)

Weren't you supposed to get married back in Aug. 06? What happened?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)

I'm so sick of your bullshit Nick.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)

momus wins the cockfight yet again.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)

momus and his gigantic cock take the rooster out for a stroll.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)

This whole Barry bit was a clever ruse by Momus intended to keep his readers from guessing the horrible, yet undeniable truth... that it is his very own mother that writes Twit Opera. Updating nightly from her desk, high in the tower room of a lonely castle on the ragged, windswept coast of Scotland.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)

> You know, I remember reading somewhere (can't remember where exactly) that people in Scotland masturbate a lot. Is that true?

Yes, it’s completely true! But so does every nation on Earth.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)

Why oh why is anonymous trolls? There didn't use to be so many of you bitches around and none of you is funny.

There has occurred a curious shift during my time away so that now the comments are all shite and in comparison, the actual entries seem remarkably sane and intelligent.

You are all momus' socks trying to make him look intelligent, y/y/OF COURSE.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)

oh, n00b :(


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lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)

I’m worried about the opposite — I’m worried that twit_opera is *not* a Momus project, and (from the feeling one gets from the poll) Nick is feeling burned by the net flames and wanting to stop writing. It seems all my favourite bloggers are doing that these days, for the same reason. I’m seriously starting to think comment systems are more trouble than worth.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Wed, Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)

Oh I don't know electricwitch, I thought the one about his mum was pretty funny. I could picture her there, her pale form silhouetted in the tower's tall window, against a backdrop of crashing waves and shivering Scottish stars, muttering feebly to herself, "post, you bastard!"


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Thu, Jul. 23rd, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
white man and their compulsion

once again your nasty habit of fetishizing asian women has run amok.
If this was a Afro-american male displaying his research in Categorizing types of early american Irish folk music... you would have never published it.
Or a white ladies proud work in exploring the variants of garden shrubs between northern and southern hemispheres... these would have proven just as interesting and socially informative... but no.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jul. 23rd, 2009 08:25 am (UTC)
Re: white man and their compulsion

Did journalist writing about Japanese art for Japanese art magazine play on loathsome hipster Japanese art fetish?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 23rd, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
Re: white man and their compulsion

It is shocking to discover that people might have certain interests that they explore, yeah.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Jul. 25th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
Hey

Luv your blog <3


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