The history of mankind begins with various forms of reading: reading a planet, a landscape, the oceans that surround the land, the sky crisscrossed by birds in flight and, after nightfall, dotted with constellations. Deciphering the world involves the ongoing challenge of reading, a reading that precedes thought, language, graphics, writing. We have been “reading” since the awakening of consciousness, speaking for more than two million years, drawing for more than forty thousand years and writing for more than five thousand. The relationships continuously forged by these practices are as unlimited as the time and space in which they spread and evolve are limited.
Abstract motifs carved into limestone, wild animals painted on cave walls, bunches of hands captured through the projection of damp pigments: the oldest images continually engage us, and their youthfulness never ceases to amaze us. They set the scene for an origin without origins, a placeless place, for a here and now that always escapes us. This is why we never stop recreating this scene, each of us for ourselves, day after day, indefatigably adding to the narrative of the pursuit of meaning by tracing our own lines.
And every written trace is nothing without a surface to receive it, a setting for its appearance. All writing needs to be sustained and circumscribed in order to exist. Everything we see would be nothing without what is invisible and seems not to be seen, an absence, a blank, an interval that separates the signs, determines their arrangement and their rhythms. Once they had come to be arranged, images of things broke free, little by little, from reality, establishing, in the words of Stéphane Mallarmé, “ce pli de sombre dentelle, qui retient l'infini, tissé par mille” (“this fold of dark lace that retains the infinite, woven of a thousand threads”): writing, which represents, relates and transmits language, languages, politics, religions, trade, prose and poetry; which made its way into public space and onto coins, papyrus scrolls, parchment codices, diaries, love letters…
Then came typography, opening up a dialogue between the forms of writing and the writing of forms, solidifying them even while rendering them moveable and variable. What writing lost in vitality, it gained in ubiquity when it became typographical, ink deposited on paper or clouds of pixels on a screen. But typography is not just captured, domesticated writing, it is also a force of exploration and reversal capable of bringing back an image, the images of things at its core.
What the character in front of your YEUX, as Pascal Quinard puts it, allows us to see and read is that “there is a learning that never encounters knowing – and that is infinite.” The infinity of thought, language, writing, typography, meaning – gushing infinitely