Typomatic Machine Promises Original Literary Experience

By Tom McLaughlin

Step right up, throw back the curtain, and take a seat inside what appears to be a typical photo booth – only participants soon find that it’s actually a “p(h)oetry booth.”

With the push of the “Big Red Button,” the Typomatic goes into action – cutting words horizontally, reversing them, and piecing them back together – before spitting out new words altogether.

While it might sound like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss poem, a Typomatic will soon be up and running to the delight of participants in the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden.

A launch for the innovative, literary installation will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, in the center’s ModLab, located in room 215 of the Fine Arts Building on the Rutgers–Camden campus.

The device will then operate in the ModLab before it is moved downstairs to the Stedman Gallery, where it will be featured in the forthcoming Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts exhibition, “E-Lit: A Matter of Bits.” For more information on the exhibition, running from Jan. 19 to April 21, visit the Rutgers art center’s website.

Guillaume Jacquemin and Hélène Caubel of the French performance art group ALIS, which co-created the first Typomatic, will visit the Rutgers–Camden campus on Dec. 2 and 3 to help the Digital Studies Center build and install its own machine.

typomatic-2“We are excited to welcome Guillaume and Hélène to Camden to help us construct the Typomatic, which allows people to play with language in an interesting way,” says Jim Brown, director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers–Camden. “By cutting words in half and combining them with other words, we see relationships that we might never have noticed before.”

ALIS created the original Typomatic in collaboration with researchers and students from the University of Compiègne in France, and the interactive design studio Buzzing Light.

The poetry created is based on the Poésie à 2 mi-mots, a technique invented by ALIS founder Pierre Fourny in 2000 that could be translated into English as “two half-words of poetry, between the lines poetry or cutting-edge poetry,” according to the creators.

“We think people of all ages will be interested in this device, which combines digital technology and typographic design to create a completely unique literary experience,” says Brown.

For more information on Digital Studies Center activities, visit digitalstudies.camden.rutgers.edu.

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