»iamgod: aesthetic/semiotic research/development« is a platform and manifest with a critical and bold approach to socio-political and communicative phenomena through the perspective of type design, typography or language.

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»Gadji beri bimba« – Hugo Ball

MGD Rotter

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MGD Rotter

Since 1998 the underlying story respectively framework of MGD Rotter has been stored in the depths of the »Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv«, situated in the Stadelhoferstrasse 12 in Zurich. The central starting point is printed on a tiny document with a format of about 14x7 cm carrying the title »Weltbürger-Ausweis« (»World Republic Pass«) (Fig. 1, 2). It was found rather by chance within an actual research about the left scene of Zurich and the »Novemberkrawalle« in 1918.

Induced through the necessary questions of design authorship and origin, a follow-up investigation of the historical and physical framework of the typeface within the type design archives of the ZHdK (Zürcher Hochschule der Künste) and the internet did not lead to any helpful result where the original typeface might stem from. Obviously the architectural origin of the typeface can be assigned to one of early grotesques. The design of the typeface still shows some contrasts in the thickness of strokes and letters like t, r, s, or f’s have the generous offshoots which are typical for early grotesques(Fig. 3). Noting that there surely does not exist a digitalization of the artifact which was found was the first reason to start a digitalization. Addendum: Florian Hardwig of »fontsinuse« kindly pointed us to »Akzidenz Grotesk« cast by Bauer foundry, Frankfurt which appears to be the original typeface.

More interestingly though as a conceptional framework — and the reason which ultimately lead to the development of our typeface — is the context in which the artifact (the typeface) was found. Our investigation about the leftist Zurich scene inevitably lead to the archival estate of Max Rotter ( born 1881 in Moravia, ✝ 1964 in Zurich), a Swiss architect and pacifist. In 1914 he founded the organisation »Weltfriedensbund« (»World Peace Association«). Moreover Rotter was closely connected to Max Daetwyler, a legendary Swiss pacifist. Together with Daetwyler he organized the blocking of an ammunition factory which lead to the so called »Novemberunruhen« and brought Rotter into prison. Within his role as an activist, pacifist and cosmopolitan Rotter published multiple printed matters (Fig. 4,5). One of these publications is the »Weltbürger-Ausweis«, a pass which grants access to the »Weltfriedensbund«, which he founded in 1914, the year of the beginning of the First World War.

In his publications Rotter pleads for the concept of a »World Republic«, an idea (whose origin already emerged in Ancient Greece) which stands on the contrary to a nationalistic ideology. Rotter draws the image of a world without borders and — marked by the ongoing First World War — without war.

As borders of states are constructions by mankind and not visible certain artifacts need to act on behalf of these borders, whether these are maps of representation or passports which facilitate the access or participation to territorial or deterritorial systems to their holders. But also more subtle artifacts serve as governmental agents: languages, their sound, or their visualities: typography.

It was therefore not coming as a surprise that Rotter also released a publication in which he imagined a constructed new »world language« (Fig. 6). While the idea of one constructed world language seems logic in order to tear down boundaries, the execution of Rotters world language seems not really thoughtful. For no apparent reasons the foundation of the world-language is latin-based, reflecting a very western-centric vision of a world republic. Also the explained grammar seems not to be very elaborated and has a lot of short-comings.

Nevertheless the overall framework, a typeface with (at that time) unknown origins found in the estate of a pacifist with ambitions to create a world-republic and world-language are interesting subjects which invite to interweave them altogether into one narrative through the shape of a typeface.

In his book »The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism« (»Von der Freiheit des Migranten: Einspruch gegen den Nationalismus«) Vilém Flusser reflects about national languages. In contrast to Rotter he understands national-languages as means against nationalism. To him, national languages are tools for the creation of new information. The one who loves his own language, will also love other languages, which has a boundary-tearing effect.

For the ones who love their language, MGD Rotter will also be available in other writing systems than latin. We are working with people of different nationalities on a MGD Rotter Arabic, Cyrillic and Greek and will progressively release the results. In contrast to its origin we offer each letter the same space through designing it as a monospace font. The shape and design with the contrast in thickness of early grotesques allows furthermore a good adaptation to non-latin writing systems..

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