Cuneiform (Ideography)

In this project we have explored the cuneiform script, a writing system that was developed by the Sumerians and later adopted by various people of the Ancient Near East. One of these societies was the Hittites, who ruled over Anatolia and used Sinop (Sinope) as a harbour.

Cuneiform writing started out as a way to record economic transactions. Initially, the cuneiform script was purelyideographic (or logographic) – its characters originate from pictures of objects. As cuneiform had to accommodate different languages over time, the original ideograms were re-used and adapted to represent the syllables that make up words. The tragedy of cuneiform was that the limitations of the initial set of ideograms, and its basis in trade, could not be overcome. Nevertheless, the ideograms served their purpose for about 3000 years.

We post signs in Hittite cuneiform on the walls of Sinop, as a form of public cryptography. The typographic interpretation of cuneiform has been made using the serif, the wedge and the loop. In cuneiform, the act of decryption requires one to unpack the past; to read the signs means to explore history.

Cuneiform (Ideography) attempts to juxtapose what we call historical and post-historical structure. We’ve understood cuneiform writing, and also city walls, archaeological findings, ruins, languages, monuments, religion, mythology, and a variety of political ideologies as his torical structure in the sense that they are situated, cannot be copied, translated or de-contextualized and are bound to certain particularities of place and time. Post-historical structure on the other hand is the domain of software, of bar codes and information networks, advertising campaigns, airports and resort hotel chains. Post-historical structure repeats and expands while it is not premised on historical or geographical particularities, politics or religion. Objects are timeless and placeless. The post-historical world is the world of the information economy, the attention economy, and the space of flows. This biennial taking place at the Black Sea coast is, to some degree, a confrontation between historical and post-historical worlds.

The typeface used throughout (and sometimes stretched and distorted in a genuine post-historical fashion) is Univers. Designed in 1957 by Adrian Frutiger, Univers was suitable for a new era of rationality, to be used on every scale, from household appliance manuals to airport signage systems.

One key symbol of the post-historical world is the bar code system. Bar codes are graphic codes tagged to objects. The bar code encodes information about the object. This information becomes visible as the code is scanned by an electronic device. We have converted a number of citations by various authors into Aztec bar codes. This type of bar code is built around a central square mark, which makes it resemble an Aztec temple complex. The writers are indicated simply by their initials (i.e. M.F., or A.G.). The act of encrypting texts about prisons, ideology, territory and borders into bar codes entails a psychological micro-revolt against post-historical structure, hijacking it from inside out.