"Miss Bodoni"
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….

Originally Published: December 20th, 2007

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...

  1. December 21, 2007
     Alicia (AE)

    I love the idea of "pin-ups" of type faces! This does look very voluptuous (those curvy serifs), text as body and vice versa.
    I guess I would call all of this vis-po "calligraphy" rather than poetry, but that is why I think it would be more productive to talk of prose vs. verse rather than poetry, since a broad (Greek) definition of poetry can include all of the arts, all "made things."

  2. December 21, 2007

    I have to say that I wish I didn't have to look at each time I look at Harriet for the next few days until it recedes into the archives... it reminds me of the controversy over the Fence cover a year or two ago -- it may seem witty or hot or something -- but we've all seen enough naked women. I'm not sold. I'm quite sure there are more innovative conversations transpiring.

  3. December 26, 2007
     Andy Dancer

    > but we've all seen enough naked women
    Urm... speak for yourself, dear.

  4. December 27, 2007

    If this was an issue about any group other than women, I really think this conversation would be very different. I'm sorry that men are still so cavalier about putting women down -- objectifying and diminishing -- it's a good reality check, though. Thanks.

  5. December 28, 2007
     Anonymous Coward

    Jennifer, aren't all people objects? If we're not objects, what are we? Ideas? Doubtful. Souls? Even more doubtful.

  6. December 28, 2007

    I confess I was sorry for my wording -- it was a compromise from a different response...
    Maybe objects -- and maybe we are all. We are. Bodies and souls and ideas. But this is not the concern here -- it is easy to be easy with provocative images. It is also easy to alienate those unaccustomed to having a voice -- easy to make jokes and images at the expense of those used to keeping quiet.
    Perhaps the better response would be -- how boring! Let's spice it up. What would the text image say if she could talk? Let's give her a caption -- let's give her some eyes -- let's give her a partner and see how racy font becomes... I would put an ellipse in her finger tips and an exclamation in her eye. In the meantime she reminds me of the shame of being smacked on the ass.

  7. January 4, 2008

    since we're on the subject of meat, where's the beef?