History of Lines: Chapter 5

Chapter 5 of Tim Ingold’s book sets of to make the distinction between drawing and writing. The distinguishing factors between writing and drawing he lists as writing is a notation, drawing is not. He claims drawing is an art and writing is not. His third claim is writing is a technology and drawing is not. His final claim being that writing is linear and drawing is not.

Writing is a notation. Writing, in all languages, has a set of rules that it needs to be written by, drawing does not. This is a pretty clear distinction but the writing goes into some examples. The first example comes up in Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh, creating the letter “A” from sticks. He has not really written though because he does not understand its notation or meaning. Which begs the question, when does copying and “drawing” letters become writing? If I were to copy a Chinese symbol, I’m not writing. The book quotes Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in a very important and clear cut distinction for when copying writing letters becomes writing. When it is discovered that letters can be arranged in a significant way to form words and “only when he can read can he also be truly said to write.” This point I agree with and is an important distinction of writing and drawing.

The second point is the one I want to focus on in “drawing is an art; writing is not.” I don’t think writing is always an art, but I think it can be an art. The idea of art is subjective. Some may consider Jackson Pollock’s art as not really art. In much the same way, I think writing can be presented in an art form. Calligraphy and penmanship is an important subdivision of writing that I would consider an art. The video I posted below asks an important question in “What if the Declaration of Independence was written as an e-mail?” I think there’s something to be argued about calligraphy and stylized penmanship as an art form. Surely if the abstract art of Picasso, and the expressionist paint splatters of Pollock can be considered art we can make an argument for calligraphy as well? Even moving away from calligraphy and into the present day world, there is art to be found in how you present your fonts. What if movie posters all just used Times New Roman? When I design websites and other presentations for class, I can’t just slap any old text and call it done. Sometimes I even have to stylize my font in a custom way. The writing itself isn’t drawing, but a drawing can be presented in writing and writing can be an art.

4 minutes into the video to end is fairly cool and relevant.

My question is fairly simple, can writing really not be considered or presented as an art form? The dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.”


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