Barry B. Powell: Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization (2009)

11 November 2014, dusan

“In this book the author explores writing not tied to speech, and traces the origins of writing tied to speech from ancient Sumer through the Greek alphabet and beyond. The book examines the earliest evidence for writing in Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium B.C., the relations of these systems to Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Mesoamerican writing, the origins of purely phonographic systems, and the mystery of alphabetic writing. With examples from contemporary and historical writing systems, and many illustrations, it shows how the structures of writing served and do serve social needs and in turn create deep patterns of social behavior.”

Publisher Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
ISBN 1405162562, 9781405162562
276 pages

Review (L. R. Siddall, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2010)



Vítězslav Nezval: Abeceda (1926)

2 August 2014, dusan

“In Nezval’s Abeceda, a cycle of rhymes based on the shapes of letters, I tried to create a ‘typofoto’ of a purely abstract and poetic nature, setting into graphic poetry what Nezval set into verbal poetry in his verse, both being poems evoking the magic signs of the alphabet.” – Karel Teige

The 1926 book Abeceda [Alphabet] is a landmark work of the artists’ collective Devětsil, active in Prague and Brno in the 1920s.

“The composition of Abeceda took place in three stages. Vítězslav Nezval wrote the poem in 1922 along the line of the grade-school syllabary, matching each letter of the alphabet with a single rhyming quatrain. Nearly every verse takes its lead from the visual aspect of its letter and proceeds as a sequence of fanciful associations: “A / let us call you a simple hut / Transport your tropics to the Moldau, o palms / A snail has its simple home with feelers sticking up / while people don’t know where to lay their heads.” For a celebratory Nezval evening in 1926 at the Liberated Theater in Prague, Milča Mayerová contributed a choreographed alphabet that complemented each quatrain with a sequence of poses. The composition concluded with Karel Teige’s addition of photo-montages that join photographs of Mayerová’s embodied alphabet with his own geometric letterforms.

Nezval’s verses follow from his conviction that poetry, as a game of language played at the level of its rudiments, provided a means of transforming the world directly. The photos of Mayerová illustrate in concrete terms this intimacy between language and reality; the poses have her almost trying the alphabet on for size. Teige’s photomontages organize that alphabetized figure with geometric letters according to the structure of the grid, which the artist regarded as an emblem of rational order. In setting Mayerová’s figure in gridded relation to the alphabet, Teige seemed to be insisting that readers consider the realities of life in relation to letters whose shapes they not only determine, but that in turn determine them.” (Source)

Abeceda. Taneční komposice Milči Mayerové
Publisher J. Otto, Prague, 1926
Illustrated with 25 black and white photomontages
57 pages
via V&A

Video adaptation (8 min, 2000, made at the Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami)

PDF (with Nezval’s poems in Czech, low resolution)
PDF (images only, low resolution)

Wolfgang Ernst, Friedrich Kittler (eds.): Die Geburt des Vokalalphabets aus dem Geist der Poesie: Schrift, Zahl und Ton im Medienverbund (2006) [German]

2 June 2014, dusan

Daß das Melodische an der Stimme notierbar wurde, ist eine kulturtechnische Leistung der altgriechischen Vokalalphabetisierung der Gesänge Homers. Verblüffenderweise wurden mit diesem Alphabet jedoch nicht nur Sprache und Musik, sondern auch Mathematik und Geometrie angeschrieben. Der interessante Befund liegt darin, daß damit von Beginn an – und einer inhärenten medienästhetischen Logik folgend – “alphanumerisch” avant la lettre operiert wurde. Diese sonst disziplinär entfernten Bereiche medienarchäologisch zusammenzudenken eröffnet eine neue Dimension von Kulturgeschichtsschreibung. Führende Vertreter neuester Forschungen aus den betroffenen Fächern (Altphilologie, Ägyptologie, Archäologie, Epigraphik, Gräzistik, Mathematik und Musikwissenschaft) werden zu diesem Zweck mit Vertretern der Kultur- und Medienwissenschaft – in dieser Form erstmals – ins Gespräch gebracht.

Mit Beiträge von Barry Powell, Rudolf Wachter, Friedrich Kittler, Jesper Svenbro, Wolfgang Rösler, Joachim Quack, Ludwig Morenz, Eva Canik-Kirschbaum, Sandrina Khaled, Gerald Wildgruber, Maarten Bullynck, Thomas Götselius, Joachim Latacz, Martin Carlé und Wolfgang Ernst.

Publisher Wilhelm Fink, Munich, 2006
ISBN 9783770542673
314 pages

Cultural techniques on Monoskop wiki


PDF (56 MB, no OCR)
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