||Being (t)here: An exploration in the transference of an experience
"Design is a means not an end. A language, not content."
Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist, Booth-Clibborn, 1998
"Each mode of production has its own particular space, the shift from one mode to another must entail
the production of a new space."
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1991
The question I pose is how a designer can translate a social situation most effectively into the form of communication, using the book as the space in which to construct meaning. It is an investigation of whether this form of communication can approximate experience. The outcome of this project is the sum of experiments with which I investigate the following:
the way in which we can introduce the use of our other senses into a book space, to the surface of the page: multisensory planes (layers of sensors) the way in which visual structures (image + word) produce meaning:
experience and language the relation or the approximation between experience and language and between experience
Designing a book around these issues will introduce the designer, and consequently the viewer, to the concept of space as a system of communication. It will also draw attention to the issue that language has an approximate relation to experience (which in fact forms the central focus to the philosophy of language).
The central issue of this project is metaphor, our rational power to translate experience from one mode to another. The metaphors that we use include:
language, speech, poetics, rhetoric, text, writing, typography, books etc. These all store experience that is translated from one skill into another.
They are representational products of a non-representational activity. For example writing is a metaphor that translates experience through a phonetic alphabet into written word (text). All products of human culture are the outcome of human
mental functioning derived from our need to substitute or to overcome the issue of absence and presence (binary opposites in Saussure’s terms). It is the human interest and fascination for representation that creates what Saussure called the
signifier and the signified that constitute the sign.
My aim with this project, is to analyse the translation of a lived experience at a particular physical space into a book space. There are two basic issues that motivate this work: firstly the way in which social places and social activities with their structures/forms/functions can be transferred/transcribed to visual structures that actually produce meaning within the book space; and secondly the approximation between language and experience and the relationship between our senses and our experiences. To do that I first started to analyse and experiment with the book space (created field/production of space) in order to compare it with social/physical space (real).
A book is a "sequence of spaces" as Ulises Carrión said. The movement within the book space is provided by the rhythm of the visual structures in the layout.
They come one after each other also creating time which is controllable by the reader’s back and forth movements, the depth is in the thickness of the page, the page is the space in sequence, numbered and bound in the spine together with the cover. This turns it into a three dimensional object. Another important aspect of 3D space that the book occupies is its depth. This is both physical depth and depth provided by layers of meaning. Most books have only single layer of meaning. However dictionaries are an example of a book which uses text that needs positioning, explanation and grammatical information and each of these is presented in different typefaces. However, the idea of laminated letters as a thumb index for alphabetic layering is different. The physical form of the laminated letters has a whole different function and creates hierarchical and physical depth.
Words have no depth, yet when placed on paper they start to attain physical presence, with different ways of printing. I carried on my experiments using ink jet printing. I put through the printer different sticky materials that I could stick on a page and printed text on those surfaces.
My study on the issue of book space involves a series of photographs with which I tried to capture photographically the way we perceive and navigate within the book space. My aim was to replace those images into book space.
I also wanted to take a physical/social space and experiment with the act of transference the interaction within that space. A place that has a history and more traditional aspects which reflects the personalities of the people who organises the space in more idiosyncratic hence dynamic terms. A space with resonance. My experience of five days at the river cafe turned into an event, an experience to be transfered into book space.
The book space is used here as the field of transfer/print to reintroduce the lived experience. It also makes an analogy between the book design (page layouts, surface, cover, binding etc) and my perception of the actions happening in the space. This is meant to structuralise and formalise my experience of five days to transfer it from one experience into another. This will be discussed in the chapter called Space and Experience.
Similarly a book by a scholar and designer Joanna Drucker, in the United States has carried out a similar project of her four day trip to a theatre. In her case she solely focused on language and typographic meanings. I will attempt to translate my experience by constructing meanings through different levels of design, language and sensory means. This is a similar attempt to stage an experience for a play. The setting, costumes, expressions, form, structure, function to mimic reality. It is never real but it evokes reality.
"Language is a metaphor in the sense that it not only stores but translates experience from one mode to another. Money is metaphor in the sense that it stores skill and labour and also translates one skill into another. But the principle of exchange and translation, or metaphor, is in our rational power to translate all our senses into one another. This we do every instant of our lives. But the price we pay for special technological tools, whether the wheel or the alphabet or radio, is that these massive extensions of sense constitute closed systems. Our private senses are not closed systems but are endlessly translated into each other in that experience which we call consciousness."
Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, University of Toronto Press 1962
The intention of this project is to translate a "physical space" into a "book space". My aim is to investigate and explore the possibilities of designing a book which will translate the experience of being there. A lived experienced transformed into a
form of communication.
It is an idea that began from my desire to produce books for disappearing Turkish social and cultural spaces before they become merely structurally analysed and scrutinised from an historical and anthropological perspective.
It is also a concept that began to interest me when I was professionally designing the International Istanbul Biennial Books. My task was to design two books for the same Biennial, the first book is categorised as a catalogue and the second book, a translation of the whole event, is harder to categorise: a type of book not merely to document or to display events and art works and to give information through a faithful recording but to translate the meaning/the message created in a physical space: the exhibition.
Physical space means a place formed by interaction of human beings who need either to socialise or to organise. It is a place based on practicality: for example museums are to inform, give knowledge and history, cafes are to relax or to socialise or to get ready to go to work. Henry Lefebvre in his work ‘The Production of Space’ calls this "social space" and says that social space is encounter, assembly, Abstract simultaneity, where everything is assembled (living beings, things, objects, works, signs, symbols). He explains that "social space implies actual or potential assembly at a single point, or around that point".1
Book space is also a physical space where visual images and text are assembled within a structure. It is a space where we can engage ourselves visually and read. Books are closed systems that use language to translate experience from one mode or plane (2D, 3D) into another.
The aim is to investigate the forms and the structures of the social space in greater depth, using language and verbal and non-verbal systems of signs to create a system for the translation of the lived experience into a book design. This will help to create a deeper understanding of the relation between language and experience and between experience and senses ultimately be applied to different lived experiences and their transference from real to single planes.
1 Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1991