Visual Poetics 05
from Studio Pin-Ups
by Taylor Lane
Taylor Lane is a British company, specializing in graphic designs for advertisers, and the corporation has won an Epica Award for publishing a calendar that features twelve pin-ups, each one produced from one of twelve different typefonts—and like any set of centerfolds in pornography, each image features a shorthand biography about the adult model, except that, in this case, each bio describes the provenance of the typefont itself. "Miss Bodoni," for example, is "often seen in Paris and Milan and her face regularly appears in leading style magazines" (because, of course, Bodoni is one of the preferred typefonts used by Vogue).
Exponents of visual poetry have often used typefonts playfully to depict either animals or objects (just as the designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumtich has done, for example, in his work Bembo's Zoo)—but such visual design often finds itself consigned to literature for children; whereas the designers at Taylor Lane have advertised their skills by quite literally depicting the "bodytext" of their work, corporealizing such textuality for a more decadent audience. The designers have restricted themselves to the repertoire of "penstrokes" found only in a singular typefont, thereby showcasing the surprising, aesthetic potential of such a limited palette.
Aesthetic criticism has, of course, remarked at length upon the role of the nude in the history of art, describing the ways in which the body of the woman has become a cipher for both the idealized values of formal "beauty" and the subaltern values of erotic "desire." The pin-ups here suggest the extreme degrees to which a poet might begin to fetishize the sensual, optical appeals of language itself, admiring the contours of letterforms in a manner reminiscent of obsessive, libidinal fixations. The letters in the caption of the usual, porno image have thus begun to displace the nude body, behaving like it rather than referring to it….
Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and of Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök has created artificial...