Notes In/troducing EnglyphJuly 12, 2011
Visualize walking into a restaurant and being handed a menu in a foreign language. Most individuals would request a menu that they could read. For Tim Roseborough, such a menu served as the impetus for his latest work: Notes In/troducing Englyph. Much like the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roseborough examines human perception and understanding of language. Meanings and judgments within language frame our collective understanding and dictate our experience and engagement with one another. From texting to answering e-mail messages to updating a status on a social networking application, many of our activities are text-based and almost automatic. Yet, what does the cognitive process look like when a reader is confronted with an unfamiliar visual language or text? In Notes In/Troducing Englyph, print publication plays an integral role in how the message is carried, received, and perceived. In the same vein as Lynda Benglis, Robert Morris, and Dan Graham, Roseborough utilizes the distinct venue of the magazine advertisement to serve as a platform for exhibition and interaction with the public.
Though Englyph is a logographic language, it is also a text-based art form derived from English. The system taps into a human desire to understand the foreign. The audience visits a web site noted at the bottom right hand corner of the advertisement. Scrolling over the Englyph characters reveals Roman alphabet text. As the interactivity translates into familiar text, the meaning of the Englyph characters becomes a part of an inquiry and possible deductive attempts at de-coding this new visual language. A viewer’s inherent curiosity stems from an inclination to learn the language and is reinforced after the user encounters the English translation, which serves as a reference point. This is key in understanding the concept of Englyph. On a web site or graphics on a blog, all of the images and formatting are created with programming language configured for relatively easy visual perception and understanding. Roseborough eradicates this ease for the viewer. The work is challenging to understand and this is the very reason that its interactive nature plays such an integral role in its comprehensibility.
Another interesting aspect entails the distinct form and presentation of Notes In/troducing Englyph. Interactive
art uses an approach that reverses the act of consumption, and Roseborough requires a bit of work on the viewer’s end. The product, to some degree, is unknown. Roseborough’s unique venture forces the viewer or reader to question where the art object is actually embedded. Is it in the magazine, the advertisement itself, or in the virtual space where Englyph is translated into English? Unlike the work of his predecessors, Roseborough’s involves active questioning and engagement that supersedes retinal activity. It suggests the beginning of a new wave of text-based art. Instead of using the magazine advertisement page as a means of tapping into the audience’s retinal sensibility, Roseborough uses Englyph to take this form of exhibition into uncharted territory, where the reader explores or relinquishes the desire to understand images alone.
Notes In/troducing Englyph is on view in the June/July issue of Art in America.
Dorothy Santos is a freelance art writer based in San Francisco. She holds a BA in both Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco.