William Klein + Daido Moriyama


For the most part, the double exhibition of works by William Klein and Daido Moriyama at the Tate Modern focuses on their urban photography. However, one room collects some of Klein's earlier work as a painter. Klein's wooden panels use text in an abstract way which draws focus on the form of the characters themselves. This approach to typography is continued through some of his photographs.

The use of typographic characters as abstract forms is a useful departure point for considering the relationship between spoken and written language. This was a concern for Jacques Derrida who, in Of Grammatology (1967), criticizes the tendency to view written language as preserved phonetic speech.

When we look at the characters in Klein's paintings, it is clear that they carry no semantic information. Characters can carry semantic information when they are grouped with other characters in assemblages of words. This is more or less the same way that spoken language works - individual noises don't carry complex semantic information unless they are in assemblages with other sounds. It is correct to criticize the notion that text is a preservation of speech, but the processes involved in carrying semantic information is quite similar in both cases. It is when we think of the extra-semantic information that text and speech can carry that the differences between the aural and the visual become more apparent.

William Klein + Daido Moriyama is at the Tate Modern until the 20th of January, 2013

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