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"Investigations in the Beyond"
The FUSE'98 conference took place in San Francisco in late May.
Joachim Muller-Lance describes his impressions


"Beyond Typography" was the motto -- and to go past typography was definitely the intention. [This is a play between two possible translations of "beyond" in German.]
In a Starck-ly furbished "living room" complete with green-haired Yorkshire lamp, the hosts guided us through a jovial 3-day talk show.

Neville Brody explained that FUSE wants to re-examine visual language: Like photography released painting from its responsability for depiction, FUSE brings the chance to liberate typography from mere legibility functions. At the end of its current development cycle, type has to redefine itself. He criticized that today, we are more defined by technological input than by our own output. We need to move from monolog to dialog, and allow the message to be altered in the process."

As "Transitions" between speakers a plethora of shorts and videos, from the Eames classic "The Powers of Ten" to performance by Dumb Type from Kyoto. Kubelka's structuralist film "Arnulf Rainer" was booed out, which Jon Wozencroft countered with a Stalin quote: "Everybody has the right to be stupid -- but some people abuse the privilege."

"Intuition" was the magic word of the conference -- appropriate for California, whilst the tenor seemed rather British-European. Soon two factions surfaced, pro vs. contra intuition, but it seemed almost forbidden to define the word. If so, should one use it at all?

With good knowledge, the organizers had selected speakers representing opposing views on the subject. But speakers and audience wer overtaxed by the subject: too often, thoughts were read off the script and other thinkers quoted. Too scarce the time for questions, and most askers were still too overwhelmed to investigate into fundamentals.

Against intuition argumented Jeffery Keedy, who criticized "intuition -- the new thing" as a buzzword: "It's like saying 'educated guess' without determining the education of the guesser. Let's leave instinct and intuition to our furry little friends:" -- and here he showed a whimsical hamster.

Beginning with Tschichold, his history of Postmodernism guided us all the way to advertizing for the "generally youth/alternative" target group: "quick to do, and no indication for criteria of determining quality. But," he argued, "Postmodernism is an idea, not a style."

Designer Malcolm Garrett also thought that "intuitive usually stands for unintelligible. Computing is not a skills-free zone: Knowledge is power -- the more you know, and the less you hold your knowledge in reverence, the better."

For intuition, in turn, spoke Jon Wozencroft who called upon us to "come back to active listening, to real silence. Break the hypnosis and silencelessness of the media." Jon is a poetic, passionate teacher -- close to his students and yet so far from us. He did not see us and took too many pains to explain his films: his deeper intentions remained unevident for most.

David Carson quoted Einstein, Paul Rand and William Burroughs als defenders of intuition -- but he is no Einstein, Rand or Burroughs. His first music video seemed banal and uninnovative, since MTV directors had already had plenty of time to copy and outdo him.

An unbearably loud and hardly structured techno show was delivered by the group SKOT from Vienna, with pointlessly shrill high frequencies way above pain level. Most held their ears shut; many left the audience. Apparently adolescent technical overkill. Pretty graphics, obviously generated by computer random: no structure, nothing dialogworthy. How said Keedy? "Quick to do, and no indication for criteria." -- "Intuitive" in the sense of "our furry little friends."

Many attempted to reinvent the wheel. Carson's vacation pictures of ripped wall posters remind of early projects from our college days -- but to him as a self-taught, it's new. And his notion that Hitler posters were perfect advertizing, has been admitted by ad agencies for decades. Rebeca Mendez' "Slow Art" book cover changes color through hand warmth -- just like Mood Rings in the 60s. Lucille Tenazas said "Listen to the photographŠ" -- as if nobody before had ever made word and image talk to each other. Maybe Malcolm Garrett is right? "True invention is a myth. All art is theft -- without reference and past things nothing can be created."

Joachim Muller-Lance graduated with honors from the Basel School of Design in Switzerland and studied Fine Arts at Cooper Union in New York. He has been a senior designer at Access Press/The Understanding Business New York/San Francisco, designed cultural exhibitions and publications related to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and was Lead information designer for Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco for 3 years. He received the Gold Prize of the 1993 Morisawa Awards for his "Lance" typeface family, and two awards for his first Kanji and Latin typeface "Shirokuro" at the 1999 Morisawa Awards. Since 1997, Joachim is principal of Kame Design, for graphic and information design, typefaces, cartooning and animation.


article for PAGEmagazine, germany:
# 08/98, august 1998

(investigations in the beyond)
report on
"FUSE'98 Beyond Typography"
san francisco 1998

reproduction or duplication prohibited

double page spread
opening the
"design scene" section