1st Lecture 2015/2016 »What is a text?«
Today – as a designer – our main task is not anymore to dissect basic forms from the surrounding environment. During the 20th century designers did so to get the basic shapes they need to design any visual or usable object.
Today our task is to dissect Text and Texture. We do this to uncover the correlational structures between the experiences of the author and the experiences of the reader (the viewer or user)
Today these experiences are the elementary basis of any design.
The common goal of designers, artists, writers, choreographers, filmmakers, music-writers and so on is to produce Narrative Capital. They do this by transforming their own fleeting impressions into a material dimension. Narrative Capital fixes the individual impressions of an individual experience as experience which could be shared.
So we can say, every picture, drawing, composition, choreography, movie and so on is a shared experience and gets its value – as Narrative Capital – by its intensity of impression.
To transform your fleeting impression into a material dimension you have to look at the structure which has to be defined as groundwork for the further elaboration.
This structure can be described as a grammatical space between Text and Texture. To get a solid knowledge about the structure first we have to examine the Text, second the Texture.
What is a Text?
A text is a combination of fixed movements, visible as traces which are transformed into signs, which can be re-activated to become a renewed reality, a reality which is now defined by the movements of the reader. A text is a concentrated relation between movements (of the body), signs (letters, words, drawings), shapes (to be defined as an object), space and time, based on an individual experience.
We are talking about any kind of text: writings, drawings, paintings, music or a dance score, also rows of buildings, trees, street lamps – every systematic combination of elements can become a text, i.e. something that can be read. The basic use of a text is not to give any logical information or refer to any object which is a derivation of the original use.
The original use is to fix an elementary movement (for example of dancing to get connected with the gods) to be able to repeat this elementary movement as precisely as possible. The term Movement is to be understood in its concrete meaning: moving up and down, forwards and backwards, left and right. By moving this way, we involuntarily capture the space and with it the time we are woven in, the time we need to fulfill our movements. Today we are used to understanding a text primarily as a written or spoken reproduction of something that happens.
We expect this reproduction to be as accurate as possible and the accuracy of the written or spoken reproduction is our measure to say that is a truth or it is a lie.
We also expect that every word refers to a material object, an attribute of this object or an action with this object.
This object can be any figure, thing or room.
Listen to this:
»April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.«
With these words the poem "The Waste Land" begins, written by T.S. Eliot, published 1922. In the meaning of true or false, these words do not make any sense.
The object April cannot have an attribute like cruelty because to be cruel presupposes its own will, also a natural object is unable to mix something specified human like Memory and Desire.
Obviously, this text has nothing to do with any logically described reality.
Why is this text written?
It is not a reproduction in writing about something that happens in physical reality, made to understand the natural or social rules of this reality: It is no reproduction at all. This text is much more a rhythmic structure that gives us no hint of anything but the rhythm of our breathing, the ups and downs of our breathing and also the moments in which our breath lingers for a short sequence on the middle-level. I am talking about the movement of the vowels. The movement of the vowels is inseparably connected with the movement of our body.
Before there was human language, there was the compressed or opened expression of our breathing which had accompanied the ups and downs of the body, the running, the jumping, the fear, the lust, the relaxation and so on. To talk about it, and with it to remember, to renew this experience from one person to the other is the beginning of the human language and its fixing in signs. The most important task of a text is to preserve the physical dimension of an experience.
By reading a text (that also means looking at a picture, listening to music, attending a theatre or dance performance, walking down a parkway...) you can feel the physical dimension of the experience the author had had and which led him to formulate or create a text about it. You are feeling this physical dimension because you are connecting your own experience with the author's. To read means giving the similarity between your experiences a space of its own.
Producing a text (by writing, drawing, painting and so on) follows the aim producing a space in which, with every new reading, the experience will be endlessly renewed.
This leads us to questions of identity: Who is the author? Who is the reader? Could the text itself read the text? Like the text itself is writing and every author is just an instrument used by the text? Are we readers, writers or are we the text (in the sense of the numberless renewing of always the same basic experiences of moving up and down, from left to right, from front to back, from yesterday to tomorrow...)?
The only chance to escape from these questions is to insist that a text is only made to describe the physical reality and with it to be able to orientate and to organize our daily being.
Back to our question: What is a Text?
Text – is a combination of letters. Letters – are combinations of geometrical lines
(or curved lines if we are talking about the asian or arabian alphabet). Lines – are traces of movements. Movements – can be fixed in shapes by combining the lines. Everything can be reduced to its fundamental shapes. Every shape has its own volume and material. Every volume has its own texture (i.e. intensity and colour)
Shapes can be divided into single lines – horizontal lines, vertical lines, diagonal lines. Every line is a connection from one point to another in its shortest way.
Curved lines are deviations from the shortest way caused by rotation and gravity:
If you combine lines in a suitable way you will get letters. The rules to combine the letters (the shapes, the objects, the volume) we call grammar. If you are using the rules of grammar to combine letters, shapes, objects you will get a text.