»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 typedesign, 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 »Zürcher Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv«, situated in the Stadelhoferstrasse 12 in Zürich. The central starting point is printed on a tiny document with a format of maybe 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 Zürich 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 (Fig.3) which are typical for early grotesques. Noting that there surely does not exist a digitalization of the artifact which was found was the first reason to start a digitalization.

More interestingly though as a conceptional framework — and the reason which lead ultimately to the execution of our typeface — is the context in which the artifact (the typeface) was found. The above already mentioned investigation about the leftist Zürcher scene inevitably lead to the archive-estate of Max Rotter. Max Rotter ( born 1881 in Mähren, ✝ 1964 in Zürich) was 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 the publications is his »Weltbürger-Ausweis«, a pass which grants access to the Weltfriedensbund founded by Rotter.

In his others publications, which were published in the context of the »Weltfriedensbund«, Rotter pleads for the concept of a »World Republic«, an idea (with its roots already emerged in Ancient Greek) which stands contraire to the one of a nationalistic ideology. In this World Republic 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, except maybe when visualized through maps, certain artifacts need to act on behalf of these borders. These could be artificial artefacts, e.g a pass which attributes a certain group in possession of it, to be a part of something. But also more subtle artifacts as 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.

However the overall framework, a typeface with 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 story 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 writes about national languages. In contrast to Rotter he sees national-languages as means against Nationalism. For 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 give 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 other writing-systems without being as stiff as a neo-grotesque.*

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