Bricks from the Kiln (BFTK) is a journal published by editors Andrew Walsh-Lister and Matthew Stuart that presents graphic design and typography as disciplines activated by and through other disciplines and lenses such as language, archives, collage, and more. In January 2016 we shared the afterword of the duo’s debut issue as an introduction to their approach and process. In June 2017, to supplement the release of issue #2, we shared a conversation between the editors and Paul Bailey.
In the latter part of 2018, BFTK #3 was launched in multiple locations—in October at Tenderbooks, London, and in December at Artbook MoMA PS1, New York. The Gradient is happy to once again host the BFTK editors who share a deeper look at the material comprising the cover of the publication’s third issue.
Bricks from the Kiln #3 is published as text, image, and sound and consists of a printed publication alongside supplementary audio components. These recordings are available to listen to through the BFTK website and can be played alongside reading or treated as separate contextual pieces. In various ways each of the issue’s eleven segments, intro/outro, and other contributions deal with voice and typography, scripts and transcripts, and the coding and decoding of language. The screenprinted PVC dust jacket that wraps around BFTK #3 contains visual sound bites taken from each contribution to the issue. The following texts are intended to act as extended captions, providing further contextual information on and around the images featured across the cover and, by extension, an insight into the material published within.
The asterisk glyph used here was designed specifically for BFTK by Peter Nencini as an addition to Make Do, an open-ended typeface envisioned as an extension of his own hand. Texts contained between asterisks (* *) throughout the issue should be read as stage directions / descriptions / instructions. Elsewhere in the issue, Make Do is used for title announcements and introductions for each segment, which, for the audio component, are spoken by the “voice” of an avatar model named Serena, rendered through SitePal, a text-to-speech platform developed by Oddcast, Inc.
FRONT COVER (clockwise, from top left)
A diagrammatic critique of Arjowiggins Inuit, a font released in 2006 alongside other marketing materials to promote a new paper range. Here, Inuktitut syllabic characters are crudely transposed/shoehorned into the Latin alphabet on purely formal terms, their semantic meaning shifted across linguistic systems.
As well as reducing the syllabics letterforms to a marketing gimmick, intended only to sell a product, it takes actual syllabic characters and effectively “colonizes” them for another script. (David Bennewith, p.110).
Depicting a partially drawn figure, hands crossed, sat adjacent to an otherwise inattentive black cat, La souris écrit rat (A compte d’auteur) [The Mouse Writes Rat (At the Author’s Expense)] is a lithographic print from 1974 made by artist Marcel Broodthaers, four years after his infamous performative audio piece Interview with a Cat. Recorded in Düsseldorf at Broodthaers’s conceptually nomadic Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles in 1970, the conversation comically skews the role of interviewer and interviewee. Questions, asked in a serious tone by Broodthaers, are put to a cat, whose replies are nearly always an incomprehensible “miaow.”
Broodthaers: Is that a good painting, that one there? Does it correspond to what you expect from that very recent transformation which goes from conceptual art to this new version of a kind of figuration, as one may say?
Here, questions attempting to theorize the art world provide more answers than the response, the presumed hierarchy between parties is flipped, but in which direction is unclear.
A hand-drawn oblique, or forward slash, denotes a test sound used to announce the start of each new segment in the issue. The sound itself is a recording of a calibration tone devised by Tom Richards for a Mini Oramics machine, a drawn-sound synthesizer originally designed around 1976 by composer and electronic musician Daphne Oram. Previously unfinished, the device operated by running marks drawn on a transparent film roll past a series of photoelectric cells, which generated electrical signals to control the amplitude, timbre, frequency, and duration of sounds. In 2016, a working version was reconstructed by Tom Richards, according to the original plans, as part of his ongoing research into Oramics. The tone, used to check that all output functions are responsive, was played at a performance of graphic scores written specifically for the device at Camden Arts Centre, London on February 24, 2018. (For more on Daphne Oram, see pp.5–22 in BFTK #2, “Progress Music” by James Bulley. And for more on the oblique as a typographic, literary and linguistic device, see pp.3–12 in this issue, “A Typographic Chronicle of Stops and Starts” by Bryony Quinn.)
“Bridging-images” such as this one, punctuate the words and sounds of what is thought to be the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf. Originally broadcast by the BBC on April 29, 1937 for the series Words Fail Me, Woolf is reading from her own words, an essay titled “Craftsmanship,” which was later published in Death of the Moth and Other Essays in 1974, a year after her death. The images, selected by Sophie Demay and Paul Bailey, are lifted directly from existing publications across sites—in the library at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and in the library at London College of Communication, respectively.
…Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today — that they are stored with other meanings, with other memories, and they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past. […] the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way, then that. Thus they are unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. (Virginia Woolf, p.47, 59)
“Den Prins noemde met hunnen Naem” translates roughly from Old Dutch to English as “The prince proclaims their name.” The prince referred to here, also known as captain, was the head of the workmen/printer’s board at the Plantin-Moretus Press, founded in the 16th century by Renaissance publisher and printer Christopher Plantin in Antwerp, Belgium. This line is taken from “Het Liedeken,” a ceremonial song sung by printers at the press. The printing workshop played a profound role in the European book printing trade until the 17th century and, when entering the printing guild, new journeymen would celebrate with their forebears by singing “Het Liedeken.” In part a sign of their commitment, the song also acted as a call for workers’ rights, with lyrics requesting good treatment and fair payment to ensure laborers delivered a high quality of work.
Today only the lyrics of the song remain. Returning to the original site, now the Plantin-Moretus Museum, Astrid Seme worked with current employees to reanimate the lost words with “a melody and tone they imagined their ancestral co-workers would have sung, thus registering an implausible continuation of oral history” (Astrid Seme, p.30).
Oska, a graphic score, was written and performed by James Bulley as part of Mini Oramics at Camden Art Centre, organized by Tom Richards. The score was originally drawn directly onto a transparent film roll and played through a reconstructed Mini Oramics machine. It was then subsequently filmed and overlaid to generate a stereo audio composition. The final film is split into four movements of different audiovisual arrangements and configurations. Movement 3 of Oska serves as the intro and outro to BFTK #3, bookending the other eleven segments contained within.
INSIDE BACK COVER
Printed in 1968 by New York independent publisher Angel Hair Books, Clark Coolidge’s ING is a modest saddle stitched poetry collection wrapped with coated paper covers adorned with heavy black painted illustrations by Philip Guston. Reproduced ghost images from a mislaid copy of ING act as “afterreading” covers, or “blouses,” for Alexandru Balgiu. They house various written pieces that accompany the banquets, bibliopiratis, collective editing sessions, reading evenings, and workshops associated with Design Writing, an editosensorial investigation on the affinities of graphic design, literature, poetry and publishing. In his own words, “An afterreading is a reading that persists in oneself after exposure to the original writing has ceased” (p.88).
The abandoned bowels of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, one of an “oddball-trio” of institutional buildings located on the fringes of Chicago’s financial district: once filled with the deafening din of thousands of “market makers” working in “the pits,” it now sits empty; only the grumble of escalators and hum of servers to be heard, physical labour replaced by algorithmic trading.
Part of a constructed conversation between James Baldwin and Claudia Rankine formed from extracts of “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” (1979) and Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). An extension of a performative workshop run by Nontsikelelo Mutiti and Tinashe Mushakavanhu at the ICA Philadelphia, exploring the power of language and our ability to alter ways of being. First presented in this “conversation” form as an audio loop in Rooms for Rooms at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial as part of a BFTK #3 preview event.
A mathematic score for a citywide bell tower sound work. Rung from four bell towers across the city of Bologna, Campanologia Bologna investigates the history of traditional Italian church bell ringing as an ancient system of communication.
Questions of periodicity loom large in any such operation, and over the past decade or so the late 1970s and early 1980s have emerged as a rich area of critical interest, marked by the rupture of punk circa 1977 and encompassing the whole constellation of cultural production in music, film, fashion and design that emerged in its immediate aftermath. Against the backdrop of rising conservatism, the dismantling of the welfare state and rapid deindustrialisation, in this historical schema the Sex Pistols’ declaration of ‘no future’ stands as a condensed formulation for the epistemic break and failure of historical imagination represented by the so-called postmodern turn, but at the same time it also opens up a temporal lacuna full of latent energies, hauntologies, and lost futures that remain to be mobilised in the present. (Mark Owens, p.34)
Jumping between two sets of chairs and plinths, “playing” the role of interviewer and interviewee, Bruce McLean recounts his career to date, his work with art-as-posture, his influences (Johnnie Ray, Jack Benny, John Latham, Rita Hayworth, and Oscar Wilde) and jokingly affirms himself as “the godfather of pose”:
*INT. LECTURE THEATRE — Thursday 16 October 2014, EVENING*
*The stage is set. Two identical black office-like chairs sit parallel to the right and left of one another, hip-high white plinths in front of them. Atop each plinth is a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and a just over half-full glass of water. Sat in the chair facing outwards is artist and “action sculptor” BM, the chair stage right is vacant.*
BM: *Puts on glasses from stage left plinth, shuffles notes, turns slightly to stage right, then begins.* Who’s idea was it to actually do this thing?
BM: *Moves across to stage right chair. Responding.* Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I am not so sure.
On the page/stone/tablet the oblique is the most discreet and discrete mark to make. Pen or chisel, the broad nib or sharp edge of the writing tool meets the surface at such an angle that the impression is the lightest, coming close but never touching another mark. The specificity of its tilt inserts itself between letters with the least resistance—like a knife between ribs.
At a precise moment the oblique mark, virgula sursum erecta, simply known on the written page as the virgule, performs its function with such acuity that, like the tiny paper cut it resembles, its significance can go unremarked for some time. And/or it may be considered less like the incision than the tool with a sharp edge on which numbers, words or sentences are balanced, inevitably to be divided. This is the virgule as blade/wound: use this paradoxical mark when describing the character of an individual and you locate the balance/tension in their personality. A model’s vanity/insecurity. The intuition/inexperience of a first-time mother. In each instance, the lean of one word is no more than the one beside it can support. Conversely, one word might prop up the other. (Bryony Quinn, p.4)
Issue #3 is available for order on the Bricks from the Kiln website.
For information on forthcoming BFTK events, releases and updates visit b-f-t-k.info, join the mailing list and/or follow on twitter @b_f_t_k.
BRICKS FROM THE KILN #3
Edited by Andrew Walsh-Lister & Matthew Stuart
170 × 224.764mm, 120pp. + PVC dust jacket + insert
Published as text, image, and sound
Edition of 700 ISBN 978-0-9956835-1-8
TTC-120, October 2018, London & New York
Out in the near future from BFTK:
• Bricks from the Kiln #4 with guest editors Natalie Ferris and Bryony Quinn (due for release late 2019)
Published as event/publication, with a series of presentations taking place across across 2019, before being transcribed and supplemented as a printed issue. The first of these events was a free one-day symposium at London College of Communication featuring Sophie Collins, JR Carpenter, Florian Roithmayr, James Langdon, Rebecca Collins, Karen Di Franc, and James Bulley on June 5, 2019. Preorders for issue #4 are now available through the BFTK website.
• “As Play, As Celebration, As Critique”Ron Hunt: Collected Writings (due for release late 2019)