The Alphabet
from Univers Revolved
by Ji Lee
Harry N. Abrams, 2004

Ji Lee has created a 3-D font called Univers Revolved, in which each letter of the alphabet consists of a spatial contour, created by rotating a san-serif, capital letter, 360° around a vertical axis. The resultant set of funnels, toroids, and columns, all become the building-blocks for an architectural understanding of textuality itself, since the writer can now compose words by stacking or arraying these shapes into sculptural formations, all of which extrude themselves into a space above the plane of the page.
Lee avers that the alphabetical conventions of writing have conditioned us to think of each letter as a planar figure without depth, in which the act of writing constitutes a kind of vector aligned along only one unilinear direction through space. His alphabet suggests that the very linearity of writing may have conditioned us to ignore the unexplored, volumetric potential of letters—their capacity to become solid "sculptures" or hollow "containers," capable of holding an innovative, meaningful content.
Lee showcases some the rotational symmetries of his alphabet in such visual poems as "Mirror" or "I Saw I Was I," in which a palindrome creates an artful series of pylons, not unlike a chorus-line of spinning tops; however, Lee also uses the alphabet to imagine sculptural formations, like "Lamp," created by stacking up letters in the word itself. He even goes so far as to create a landscape of elegant chessmen and robotic machines out of the constituent, alphabetic components for such words.
Lee highlights the degree to which the alphabet might constitute a permutable repertoire of atoms out of which might grow a "universe" of modular objects, each embodying its own name somewhere in its own form. Lee has thus turned upon his lathe a whole array of elementary structures (like spindles, grommets, and ferrules), thereby fulfilling in language, the premise of Cézanne in painting, where every object finds itself constructed from a template of basic forms (such as balls, cones, and tubes)….

Originally Published: January 4th, 2008

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. January 5, 2008
     Alicia (AE)

    Not much I can say here except--neat! I especially like the lamp. Truly "concrete" poetry!

  2. March 1, 2009
     Paul Thind

    The results are even more incredible with Hindi and Urdu..
    in fact any two dimensional shape...
    it is so cool, cool , cool..
    And the human eye, it is such a remarakble tool,
    it has the capacity to transform almost any image into a beautiful 'object'
    like a painting by a fool.
    It could be evolution.
    If one cuts it into two
    and then perhaps even into four
    and then one lays it upside down on the floor
    and hangs oneself down from the ceiling,
    or looks at it from underneath a door!