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MGD Ikonoklast is designed as a homage to Rammellzee’s (Fig. 1) manifest »Ikonoklast Panzerism: Ionic Treatise Gothic Futurism.« from 1979 (Fig. 2–5). Rammellzee started his career as a train writer and emcee of the second generation in New York and later on extended his artistic practice to painting, writing, sculpting, tailoring and performance art.
In terms of his output as a musician, most noted is his 7-inch »Beat Bop« (Fig.6) he recorded with K-Rob in 1983 which nowadays is sold for up to 1500 dollars as the cover has been designed by Jean-Michel Basquiat (who was supposed to have a rap part as well in the first place). The track is part of the »Style Wars« soundtrack, a pioneering movie about New York graffiti of 1983. He already appears as an emcee with a sawed-off shotgun on stage in »Wild Style« 1982, another important movie out of the beginnings of hip hop as well as he has a cameo role in Jim Jarmusch’s »Stranger Than Paradise« (Fig. 7).
Delving into Rammellzee’s theorem one enters an pulsating amalgam of concepts of style writing, semiotics and linguistics channeled into his own language system. At any rate Rammellzee and his whole opus can be situated within the afro-futurism movement, a »cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science, and philosophy of history that explores the developing intersection of African/African Diaspora culture with technology« (wikipedia). What Sun Ra and his Arkestra achieved on a, say, sound based level, Rammellzee was pushing on »the other side«: the »writing« level. He understood style writing as an enrichment of the latin writing system through new symbols and ornaments. His idea was mainly that languages remain as relicts of different cultural wars and language systems actually imprison letters within their inherently oppressing cultures, established by different kind of political governments.
»Languages using Roman letter-symbols or others are not a language, due to universal symbolic thievery. The original verbal formation (phonetic) for the Roman letter was Latin: (L+AxT= IN).« (a)
Rammellzee’s concern was nothing less than to liberate the elements of writing — the graphemes themselves — from language through addition and multiplication of military ornamentation. To Rammellzee the liberation of letters has begun in the middle ages with the evolution of gothic typefaces as monchs wanted to encode their religious information. (Fig. 8) Ornaments have been added to the graphemes and armoured their visuality for no other purpose but style. He perceived New York train writers as modern day monchs who continue this process through the styling of letters on »rolling pages«. Rammellzee’s idea of writing becomes an act of assault against language and the mechanical imperative of the Gutenberg Press.
MGD Ikonoklast is at first sight dependent on this mechanical imperative by design — as every digital typeface. The majuscules are common letters which are reproducible in a Gutenberg manner, but they can be »weaponized« with the addition of its minuscules. With these »weapons« it is able to symbolically revolt against its inherent Gutenbergish reproducibility in the sense of Rammellzee.
There have been early attempts in digital type design to escape the Gutenberg logic. Most known is the typeface »Beowulf« from Just van Rossum and Erik van Blokland, published in 1990. Through programming the outlines of the font, its shape changes each time it is used. Due to nowadays technical limitations through font formats, the font is sold as a collection of diverse cuts, like a superfamily — it compromises with language. Surely being an early pioneering achievement it is to be understood rather as a technical play than an attempt to liberate graphemes from language.
Through the infinite possibility of weaponization of the majuscules with the addition of minuscules (f.e. »Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwcyz«), the readability of the letter becomes impossible. The act of writing itself makes the order of the letters untraceble. Therewith the graphemes untie from all kinds of languages becoming unique »burners«. The Gutenberg idea of imitability (and therewith Rammellzee’s accused cultural theft trough language) is hacked through the writer.
Rammellzee wrote his theorem in the year 1979 and unfortunately passed away in 2010. One could wonder how his theorem in liberating the written from language would look like in 2018. How would he assess the developers and information technologists? Are they the modern day monchs sitting in their chambers, writing their endless lines of code which solely they can decode? Would he find they finally liberated symbols from language, creating our modern-day cybernetic »cathedrals« with their alchemic semantics of symbols (Fig. 9)? The question remains open.
»The promise of typography and the promise of modern mathematics finally came together, after 500 years of European latency, that is an infinite power, a kind of integral(…). It is very difficult to state, if there is any limit, I think that is currently the most important question«, (b)
Kittler already reflects in 1995 in conversation with Virilio. With the heritage of Rammellzee in mind we propose MGD Ikonoklast as a post-typographic counter program and reflection to the state of affairs.
»With formations two degrees are left open for discussion and in math: SUG - G x EST = IONS.«(a)
(a) Rammelzee, IONIC TREATISE GOTHICFUTURISM ASSASSIN KNOWLEDGES OF THE REMANIPULATED SQUAREPOINT’S ONE TO 720° TO 1440° THE RAMM-ELL-ZEE, COPYWRITE 1979
(b) Original: Das Versprechen des Buchdrucks und das Versprechen der modernen Mathematik endlich zusammengekommen, nach 500 Jahren Latenzzeit Europas, das ist eine unendliche Macht, wirklich eine Art von Integral, in das alle vorher getrennten einzelnen Technologien, Metallurgien, Halbleitertechniken und Elektrotechnik eingeht. All diese Basteleien, die sich abgespiegelt haben. Es ist sehr schwer anzugeben, ob es da noch eine Grenze gibt, ich glaube, das ist die im Moment dringlichste Frage. (arte, November 1995)