2007

Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design presents a group of contemporary, international graphic designers who base their work in critical investigation. John Morgan’s contribution published the whole Bill-Tschichold dispute, with Paul Renner’s after note on one totemic poster. 

 

‘I can’t help but be seduced by Philip Johnson’s black-comic exchange with Susan Sontag — described by Marshall Berman as “pop nihilism in its most insouciant form”. As someone who was encouraged to do “good work” and join hands with Geddes, Ashbee, Lethaby, Read, Mumford and co, I find Johnson’s honest amorality both shocking and refreshing. His voice resonates with self-mockery and self-delight. His candid disclosure offers one way to work and live in the modern world. In the absence of values, his pragmatic pick-and-mix vision offers an abundance of possibilities. “To be natural is such a difficult pose to keep up.” (Oscar Wilde)

Charles Jencks places Johnson’s modern self-awareness under “camp” — a sensibility Sontag knew a thing or two about. “I am strongly drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it. That is why I want to talk about it, and why I can. For no one who wholeheartedly shares in a given sensibility can analyse it; he can only, whatever his intention, exhibit it. To name a sensibility, to draw its contours and recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion.” (Susan Sontag, ‘Notes on Camp’, 1964).

As the required result of this inquiry is a large-format print — perhaps encouraging “design as art”, just as Johnson appeared to encourage “architecture as art” — I must not, as Sontag warns, be “too solemn and treatiselike”, or else I run the risk of producing an “inferior piece of camp”.’ (John Morgan, Forms of Inquiry, 2007)