The Whitechapel Gallery, located in vibrant East London is known for it’s contemporary and experimental art shows. The gallery opened in 1901, and has a long history of education and outreach projects. Currently hosting ‘Mimeographica Alphabetica’ a typographical print display created by artist Fraser Muggeridge in collaboration with students from Welling School. The collaboration with this South East London School is an exemplification of such outreach projects and this impressive display emphasises the importance of such collaborations and their creative capacity. The show is a unique display which expands the way in which we think about letters, letter formations, and typeface -symbols which we are bombarded with daily in our everyday lives but do not consider further as they have become common place in our lives. This display opens up our minds to consider such typography prints and the way in which we view our alphabet further and evokes an interaction with them – the prints are produced to great effect.
Muggeridge (1973) is a graphic designer currently based in London. He studied Typography and Graphic communication in Reading, and now teaches at the university as a visiting lecturer. The exhibition was created by the artist and students through experimentation with a mimeographic-printing machine. Mimeographic printing involves stencil duplication which forces ink through a stencil onto paper. Muggeridge encouraged the students to make their own hand made stencils to make up the prints for the exhibition. This hand made process is a slowly dying style of printmaking, whereby most mimeographic machines were replaced with photocopiers in the 1960’s as an attempt to rectify the imperfections that can be made by mimeographic printing. Where photocopying can produce prints which are exactly the same, mimeographic prints may differ dependant on the press of the ink when printed. The use of the mimeograph here, however, adds to the pieces and the creative process behind them and is evidence of the artists self-proclaimed interest in the ‘obsolete technologies and what you can create on them’. The prints may not be exactly the same as would be with photocopier printing, but these slight differences Muggeridge shows, give them a more unique form.
The exhibition space is light and spacious, the prints are repeated as if to almost wallpaper the display. There is an interaction between the typography on the walls and the viewer in this gallery in an extremely powerful way. The typographical symbols do not necessarily make up letters that are familiar to the western alphabet, but this is not the point, as one considers the shapes and tries to translate them into a meaningful symbol one is forced to think beyond traditional letter formations thus expanding the boundaries of typography.
Typography and letter formations are not something that usually find place in the art gallery, however ‘Mimetica Alphabetica’ is given home in this gallery and the space it really deserves. This is a rich and unique display in which one can view the experimental collaborative process of a highly skilled graphic designer and his students, which is produced to exceptional effect. The process of print making itself is given as much importance in this exhibition as the finished artefacts. This owes itself to the artist’s teaching process where the students were urged to learn through experimentation. The students may print upside down, but as Muggeridge himself suggests this is all part of the process. This exhibition is not great simply through its presentation of print making, but rather it allows us to re-consider something as fundamental to us as letters. This is also an extremely unique exhibition as it allows use to see the art in letters and gives typography the opportunity to appear in the art gallery. Taken more broadly this display allows us to re-consider the categories more generally which make up our everyday lives.
Mimetica Alphabetica is on display at The Whitechapel Gallery, East London Until 30th November 2014 For further information please see the gallery website: http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/about-us