Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dom Sylvester Houédard

Occasion Papers press recently published Notes From the Cosmic Typewriter : The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard.


like contemplation, 1971

a particular way of looking, 1971

comment le present ouvrage suscite ces questions critiques, 1971

"This book," says the publisher, "is the first since the early 1970s devoted to the extraordinary British Benedictine monk, scholar, translator, concrete poet and artist Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924–92)."

Tom Lubbock writes about one of Houédard's "typestracts" (above) from a 1976 series with the collective title  For The 5 Vowels

"He employed standard equipment. His typestracts were all typed on a portable Olivetti Lettera 22 (a fact, he said, Olivetti showed no interest in)

A letter is an obvious enough subject for typewriter art, but there aren't any u's or other letters used in this U-structure. Its planes are made entirely from full stops, more and less widely spaced. These dots are in regular lines and columns, and most of them are set on the page in the normal upright way, and very tightly. 

But the dots that form the wider-spaced, up-facing planes run at diagonals. Houédard didn't do this freehand. He turned the page in the machine, and used stencils to guide his slanted forms ...

The two-pronged U-structure seems to be floating off the ground, or rather just above a separate oblong base. (It could be a three-dimensional underlining.) The U-structure is typed in brown ink, but the base is in green, and it's constructed not from dots but from a stitching and criss-cross of dashes.

What makes the U-structure look weightless is the way it's joined to this base. A length of string, knotted around the ends of the base, and threaded through the U, is holding it down. 

Now this length of string is a piece of freehand drawing (though very laborious). It is created by gradually moving the paper by hand through the roller, as numerous individual black strokes are closely overprinted and accumulated into a loose, fat, twisted line ...

There are other drawn lines, but thinner and shorter. They hang on the tops and sides of the U-structure. They're probably made from dots. They look like seaweed trailing down it, or sea-worms slithering up it. There are further tiny drippings or droppings or beadings, descending and going off the bottom. All these marks give the U-structure a feeling of being underwater. That makes sense of its weightlessness. Perhaps that's what U stands for."