The exhibition Type/dynamics sees two galleries at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam adorned with large, interactive typographic installations, that plays off, reacts to, and dialogues with the work of Jurriaan Schrofer.
The visual dynamic of Schrofer’s typographic art suggests that his designs were created on the computer but they predate the digital era: Schrofer designed everything by hand. The installation visualizes information that continuously surrounds us and is always accessible. By searching for real-time locations currently in the news, like Ground Zero, Reichstag, or Tiananmen square, the installation can locate the panorama images from Google Streetview, abstract them into grids and fill the grids with new information. As a visitor to the space, you are literally 'transported’ to that location and surrounded by all the news associated with that specific location. Instead of a photographic representation, the place is represented purely typographically with a host of new items currently being talked about at that location. Nothing in the gallery space stands still; all information continuously moves.
Jurriaan Schrofer’s oeuvre consists primarily of printed matter that is designed manually. In the 1960s, however, he experimented with new techniques, offset printing for instance, as a means to achieve 'moving typography’. Throughout Schrofer’s work, dynamics, or movement, is the common thread. Starting in the 1970s Schrofer, then a design researcher, explored patterns and structures inspired by the Op Art movement. He meticulously investigated strange perspectives, depth of field and typographic symbols.
Typography as Carrier of Data
Jurriaan Schrofer looked for new ways to express dynamics and movement in printed typography. Type/Dynamics shows the dynamic qualities of information and typography. The concept that design is endowed with a form that is unfinished or changeable has been self-evident in contemporary design for quite some time. Nowadays attention is paid more to the design of rules, or creating the framework in which something can happen. In a database for instance, content does not have an innate form, but rather receives form at the moment it is shown via the interface. In fact, the same information can be represented in an endless number of ways. The interface allows for content to be shown as data, as information, or as knowledge; ultimately content appears as loose data without a context, as data in a context, or as interpreted information. This data can even change per week, day, or minute. What is evident through this process is a very different approach and attitude towards design than the questions of Schrofer’s generation.
In a time when data can be accessed and can manifest itself in all kinds of ways, typography should no longer represent just formal aspects of information. Instead typography can itself be the carrier of content. A letter is the smallest content entity, but even this letter can contain the whole dataset for the content it represents. LUST sees interaction design as the new literature. It is not only about the interactive aspect of the effect, it is also about the narrative possibilities; narrative structures that go beyond linear or non-linear. This new literature is also about literary aspects like references, analogies, structures, points-of-view, time – all contributing to the complete narrative of an installation. A visitor does not need to grasp all possible readings of a work at once; instead multiple story lines unfold over multiple readings. All aspects from content to movement, interaction, data collection and collaboration contribute to this new literature. The spatial experience of the installation can be compared to that of the ‘Aleph’, from the book by Jorge Luis Borges. There is a point where you can see everything that has ever happened on earth in a single moment. The moment is so overwhelming that at once you see everything and then you don’t see anything at all.
Type/Dynamics consists of two identical galleries of the same conceptual theme. In the first gallery the walls are covered with enlarged detail images of Schrofer’s work. Originals are located in vitrines with an emphasis on sketches. Also located in this gallery are two vertical screens that present works by Schrofer interactively in relation to the visitors’ viewing position. The second gallery presents a free interpretation of Schrofer’s work. Sensors track the visitors’ movement, while the projections subsequently respond to the position and number of visitors in the space, as well as their distance from the gallery walls. Visitors acquaint themselves with a specific topic by literally walking towards an item of interest. The typographic grid closest to the visitor then opens up and becomes more readable, while new typographic layers open up for further exploration.
Next to the exhibition, also a short dance movie was produced using the Type/Dynamics installation as a point of departure. Together with director Ruben van Leer and choreographer Lukas Timulak this movie was shot on location at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
The main program runs on a single computer that drives eight HD projectors written in OPENRNDR, our in-house open source framework for creative coding. The OPENRNDR framework is developed to support the creation of complex interactive installations that require processing power.
The tracking setup consists of four small Intel NUCs, each of which is connected to two Kinect sensors. The observational data that we acquire from the kinect sensors is sent to a processing unit that fuses the data into a single observation of the space. Using this setup we can accurately track multiple individuals through the entire space.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Design and implementation