12 January 2007

Art Upside Down

I was rummaging around on-line today and came across this book all about the wonderful world of ambigrams--a word that reads the same if you rotate it 180ยบ. A good, simple example is the little word pod.

Photo credit
The book is called Wordplay, by John Langdon, who is something of an ambigram genius. The title as pictured is itself an ambigram. Of course, in whatever font Impart Art uses, Wordplay fails to look anything at all like itself when flipped upside down. Thus the art (or is it the science?) of ambigrams. To be able to tweak each letter just enough that it could double for something else upside-down is an amazing feat. Not saying it is Art, but an art for sure.

As for Art upside down, you’ve always got George Baselitz.

This is his “Tulips”, 1981, as it appeared in my one-painting-per-day 2003 calendar. Yes, I kept all the pages and in mint condition too.

Flipping words upside down is pretty entertaining, but an upside down image has other connotations. His work raised all kinds of questions about art and the art world. Had it been stood on its head? Some have said that Baselitz wanted to present recognizable things, but also keep the viewer from losing sight of the paint-and-canvasness of any painting. It really is harder to relate to an upside down image, and so you are more likely to notice color, form, composition and less likely to think about who knocked over the tulips.

And now, for the real treat of the post, upside down music. Years ago in middle school, there was a mini-concert during orchestra (third hour, I think). Two violinists, both decent and a year ahead of me, played a duet. They stood facing each other with a single sheet of music placed between them on a table. The one on the left played what he saw from top to bottom, as did the player on the right. In other words, the duet was a single set of notes played right-side-up and up-side-down at the same time.

It is attributed to Mozart, but apparently that is in question. Those of you who want to download a free copy of the duet can do so here. Scroll down until you see the German title “Der Spiegel”, in English, The Mirror.


Dad said...

I love this type of stuff. It is such a great diversion and then you can find yourself noticing mirror situations as you go through your day. I have never heard any music played that way but I think it would be neat to listen to some. Maybe I could experience that while I am in my next art lounge night out.

Vatti said...

I remember you telling us about "Der Speigel". If Mozart wrote it, it would be consistent with the genius he was purported to have possessed.

It appears to me that some alphabets/languages are more amenable to “ambigramation” than others. It seems like the Roman alphabet—particularly the lower-case letters—are particularly vulnerable. I imagine that ambigrams in Chinese or even Arabic, for example, might be quite difficult.

Mary Ann said...

I've looked for ambigrams in arabic, and I haven't found them. Maybe Matthew and Josh can let us know about Chinese and Korean characters. I don't know how easy they are to flip. Anyway, although I don't know if arabic is "ambigramable", I've been thinking for a while how cool it would be to write a word such that it reads in arabic (right to left) and in another language left to right. I haven't really tried to do this yet, but I've got it on my radar of potential really-cool-things.