Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Viking Brand in Iceland

Best use of a letter-form in national branding: Viking sword and two axe-blades form the outline of a stylized Þ ("thorn") at the National Museum of Iceland [its name in Icelandic: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands]. Reykjavík, Iceland, July 2014.

FYI, in Icelandic there are two different letters to indicate what we transcribe as the "th" sound in English. Þ / þ ("thorn") indicates the "th" sound as in "thunder," while Ð / ð ("eth") indicates the "th" as in "weather." Old English (Anglo-Saxon) used to employ these letters too but they have since become obsolete.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cryptic Sculpture (Hirshhorn)

This mysterious sculpture is entitled "Antipodes" (Sam Sanborn, 1997) and it stands the garden outside the Hirshhorn Museum. This Arts Observer article provides a good description of the piece with nice images of the work.

A detail of part of the sculpture reveals of pattern of letters. Reading across the top row of this photograph you can just make out the word KRYPTOS; this word is repeated in every line in a slightly different position, surrounded by what appears to be the other letters of the Roman alphabet: ABCDEFG ... etc.

I took at look at the other half of the sculpture (left-hand side in this photo), which looks like the letters of some Cyrillic script in reverse. I have no idea what's going on here. But -- as it turns out -- someone else has devoted years studying this artwork and has finally (as of September 2003) cracked parts of the code.

The English part of the sculpture, by the way, apparently repeats the code in another sculpture by Sanborn entitled (appropriately enough) "Kryptos," and this artwork stands on the grounds of CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.