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"Image and Language" Category

Eye Movement and Words

Monday, May 21, 2018

When we read, our eyes do not move left to right in straight steady lines; the eye goes back and forth. The movement is a combination of small rapid jerky movements, saccades and fixations, where our eyes actually stop.

When we read a text, our eyes do not move in a straight line across the page. They make skips from words to words call saccades. They also skip words, repeat words, and fixate on words.

In the image, the dots show the fixations.

 Image 1

The brain creates the illusion of smooth line and that we read every word. But the eyes fixates on only about 60% of the words we read. The eye will fixate on the less familiar words. The brain will complete, fill in the blanks.

The are three regions of  perception:

  • the Foveal region takes up only 1 to 2% of your total vision, which is around 3 to 6 letters we can see very clear;

  • the Parafoveal region is around  24 to 30 letters which are not perceived very clearly;

  • the Peripheral region is everything else we perceive, such as gross shapes.

The page, the screen where the letters are written on, give us a frame in which our eye will stay in during the reading process. But what happens when this frame disappears?

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Arktype Curtain and "Fire Basket"by René Knip

René Knip challenges this idea with his Curtain Arktype typeface. This typeface is meant to be hung up in a space. It is taken out of the paper into a 3D world even though the typeface itself stays flat.  The work balances between the 2 and 3 dimensional. One could call it 2,5 dimensional. The white negative space of the paper around the letters does not apply to this typeface anymore, as so is the frame given by the paper or screen in which a text is normally written on/in. The negative space is the breathing room around the subject that determines how appealing it looks.

Now that it is hung in the air, you will have to determine the frame.  You will perceive the surrounding and the text as a whole. The eye will change the way how it is perceiving the text. This is also due to the fact that the letters are connected vertically even though the words are placed horizontally, still, this will guide your eye in a different way.

An interesting thing happens to the text that has now lost it frame. It is no longer just the text that creates the visual narrative, since the text is immediately influenced by its surroundings. The two are inseparable. The Curtain Arktype makes the viewer experience reading of text in a different way. As said before, the eye does not pay equal attention to every part of a text or every letter. The eyes move around, locating interesting parts of a scene.

When reading a text created with René Knip’s 3D typeface, there is almost too much for the eye to focus on. The eyes of the beholder make jerky saccadic movements from the text to the background, finding interesting parts everywhere. The words become truly visual, where meaning is created not only by the meaning of the text, but also by their sight. Furthermore, negative space has become positive, as it has become defining creator of context.

The text and the surroundings become equally important and following that you will look to it more as a composition between the text and space. Your eye movement will be guided by the shapes around it, an eye movement which is closer to one looking at a painting, sculpture rather than one reading words.


The problem of finding an interesting subject

Monday, October 22, 2012

[publication of graduation essay by Lilian Stolk 2012]


“Zoek het dichtbij jezelf”, was de tip die mijn scriptie begeleider mij gaf. Ik zag mij zitten, op het puntje van mijn bureau stoel en mijn neus in mijn computerscherm. Maar wat mij zo fascineerde, wist ik niet. Na lang nadenken over een goede onderzoeksvraag, besloot ik de zoektocht zelf als onderwerp te nemen. Ik herhaalde de vier stappen die ik tot nu toe had genomen, zoals een museumbezoek of het analyseren van mijn eigen werk. Ik werkte samen met grafisch ontwerper Aude Debout, die de vier stappen fantastisch heeft vormgegeven.

Download thesis: Mijn zoektocht naar een onderzoeksvraag [dutch language]

[image from essay by Lilian Stolk][ /]


Pharmakon, cure as well as poison

Monday, October 22, 2012

[publication of graduation essay by Marieke Berghuis 2012]

“Pharmakon: De magie van het schrift” is a thesis about the connection between the material world and the world of writing. This thesis investigates the question in two parts: the effect symbolic signs have on us as well as the effect of the manual activity of writing/drawing itself on the writer.

In Plato’s book Phaedrus, Sokrates tells a story of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thamus who is visited by the god Hermes, or Toth. Hermes is the alleged inventor of writing, and offers his invention to Thamus as a cure (‘pharmakon’) for memory. The king refuses the gift, believing writing would rather be poison (‘pharmakon’) to the memory, since memory needs to be trained. Without training their memory people will remember only by mere virtue of an external device. This story is firstly about writing, but the word ‘pharmakon’ also provides the key in this research’ conclusion. ‘Pharmakon’ means at the same time cure and poison. This ambiguity and lack of unequivocality is what renders writing, drawing or mark making, in a sense magical. In focusing on the performative act of writing or drawing, I found that artists such as On Kawara and Hanne Darboven, and writers such as Franz Kafka, Robert Walser and Walter Benjamin, created a certain beneficial rhythm for themselves by the manual, repetitive movements of painting, drawing or writing.

My research is illustrated by the personal story of me taking notes in a courtroom. Security guards removed me from the public gallery and confiscated my drawings for inspection as they posed a security problem. That was the starting point of a lengthy exchange of letters to discover the rule or regulation I had violated. Eventually, I was told that as long as the authorities knew what I was doing, could understand or read what I scribbled on the paper, there would have been no problem. My notes however, being illegible to the authorities and made without a clear-cut, understandable purpose, rendered my presence disruptive.
Download thesis: De Magie van Het Schrift [dutch language]

[image from graduation show and essay of Marieke Berghuis][]


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