Tatsuo Nishida (Japan), Katsumi Asaba (Japan)

Writing through time

This is a lecture about the essence and development of scripts, given by linguistic expert Tatsuo Nishida (Japan) and hosted by Katsumi Asaba (Japan). Nishida has written several books about hieroglyphs and writing systems. He begins by telling us that there are still many "uncoded" writing systems left on earth. In his research in China he has recorded and analyzed several of these "uncoded" scripts. He also notes that in his travels, he has realized that Japan a rare culture for using so many different types of script simultaneously (Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji, an even some Latin script). He takes us from the origins of Asian scripts, the pictograph, through a variety of scripts that are descended from them, Xia, Tompa, and Kanji. Scripts are designed for appreciation and for linguistics, Nishida says. He recognizes that artists also create new ways of using script for the sake of art. Picasso painting a glyph of a bull on glass, and the painting of Jackson Pollock are both examples of art that takes from the knowledge of script, they suggest. Although the true origins of script are hard to say with certainty, Nishida walks us through a theoretical history of Asian scripts. By showing a number of clear images comparing different characters, he helps us understand how these forms may have been developed. Nishida and Asaba conclude by saying that young designers will be well served by learning more about various scripts, as writing can overcome time and space to communicate.(NR)

R.K. Joshi (India), Esther Liu (Hong Kong)

Asian scripts go digital

In just under two hours, Professor R.K. Joshi and Esther Liu introduced us to Indian and Chinese scripts, and delineated some concerns in bringing these ancient writing systems into the digital age. Both are extremely complex and based on handwriting and/or carving. They are also at the mercy of both historical and political forces and suffering from an incompatibility with technology in its present state.
Professor Joshi's presentation focused on the formation of Indian scripts, which are phonetic, not ideo- or pictographic. He pointed out that scripts were created to pass on information and wisdom: mantras, prayers, rituals. In Indian scripts, consonants are the body, and vowels the soul. The way vowels are added to consonants in the written language allows for 12,000 combinations. This complexity has made both hot type and digital reproduction problematic.@Professor Joshi concluded with a poem: one/ by/ one/ I/ buried/ them/ beyond/ the/ page/ now/ I/ read/ empty/ blank/ space.
Ms. Liu presented fascinating research into the existence, history and future of Chinese typography and typographers, a project prompted by a question from Kohei Sugiura: Does Chinese typography exist in the Chinese language? She interviewed 11 men and one woman typographer and found out that it does, but the profession is still not clearly defined, well paid, or efficient. The typographers come from crafts and calligraphy, and face an Herculean task. Simplification of the characters is an ongoing project, and still only 20-30 words can be created in a full day's work, at a cost of $5.00/word. A bright spot: a typography competition produced superb new fonts, and may help inspire the next generation. (MH)

Writer:Kosuke Ikehata/Norimitsu Korekata/Junko Sakamoto/Nobuko Shimuta/Naoko Hasegawa/Osamu Hisanaga/Sakurako Muto/Naho Yoshioka/Helmut Langer/Maggie Hohle/Nicole Rechia/Trysh Wahlig/Gitte Waldman/Robert Zolna
Photographer:Yoshimitsu Asai/Yasuhiko Katsuta/Fumihiko Mizutani