Towards a Typographic City
May 22, 2012
“Type City by Hong Seon Jang; All photos: David B. Smith Gallery
Describing the (explicitly Western) architectural production of the last five hundred years, Mario Carpo writes how this output of forms, spaces, and bodies of knowledge was resolutely and irreversibly conditioned by the “Gutenberg Galaxy”, that is, the invention of the printing press and the index of mechanical matrices it inhered. The resultant “typographic architecture”, the buildings and urban forms that we live with to this day, corresponds in content to a print culture that is rapidly passing into extinction, threatening to bring down with it the Western architectural cannon it has sustained for so long a time. According to Carpo’s premonitory argument, this eventuality will cause a social rift so decisive to assure the virtual destruction of these building traditions, despite the desperate attempts of preservationists and reformists alike.
The invocation of Carpo’s work is to contextualize this installation by Korean artist Hong Seon Jang, who has fashioned an entire micro metropolis out of decommissioned movable type. Where the aforementioned argument logically relates the disappearance of familiar Western architectural forms with the removal of its substructure, Jang’s “Type City” does the opposite. Using lead type salvaged from an antiquated technology–an old printing press–the artist builds an entirely new, if not spatially novel urban network of towers, housing, and infrastructure. Jang’s choice of material is anything but unintentional, loaded with historical and material implications that speak to our collective nascent post-print mentality that promises to reenvision our homes, landscapes, and cities.