Can a typographic poster be considered a universal medium of communication?

Can typographic posters, whose foundation is the letter, be comprehensible to viewers from a diversity of cultures? These two questions have inspired the creators of the TYPE + TEXT exhibition that showcases the achievements of Polish and Chinese poster designers. The idea of multiculturalism did become a space of artistic exploration for creatives from Europe and Asia, but primarily it enabled a meeting of two visual cultures during exhibitions organised at the Guilin Huaqiao Art Museum in China and at the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin, Poland.

Signs of the Latin alphabet and Chinese characters are visually and semantically distinct, while letters constitute the core visual element of a typographic poster. How can then one convincingly bring together a set of disparate ways of design and poster conceptualisation, without giving rise to an artificially created entity? It seems well founded that the said languages are natural and that typographic posters created on their basis will provide us with the essence of their respective cultures. Presented in this catalogue, typographic compositions are secondary works based on language and culture, simultaneously acquiring certain superstructures, and — in doing so — facilitating our acquaintance with a distant culture and logic far removed from our daily experience. They are creating a model of individual communication, aiming to reach every viewer, regardless of their mother tongue. Discussing the issue of the idea of language, Umberto Eco commented: “It is believed that languages reflect the spirit of a nation, making them mutually incomparable and capable of expressing dissimilar worldviews.” For that reason, artistic endeavour constitutes a meaning: by means of a work of art, i.e., a poster, a designer imparts a message. Every single work of art is typified by a certain, individual structure and internal spatial organisation. It is in this way that the posters on display express ideas, re-enacting the reality through art.

The TYPE + TEXT exhibition showcases over 120 posters by Polish and Chinese artists. Apart from providing a panorama of the most intriguing achievements of typographic poster design, the event also constitutes an attempt to juxtapose methods, approaches, artistic practices, and ways of thinking about creativity. Setting these typographic images side by side formulates new, extra-aesthetic, semiotic meanings. This opens novel avenues of searching for adequate means, enabling viewers to understand the message within. After all, this is the crux of the matter.

The cooperation between Polish and Chinese designers as well as their common denominator — the code that is the letter — is what makes the exhibition truly unique.

Sebastian Smit