by Heinz Schütz
Handwriting and reproduction
Today it is without question that books are reproduced by machines and that handwriting has disappeared. Even the manuscript since the use of typewriters is still a handwritten, that means typed, but by no means handwritten text.
In the meantime, the use of computers initiates the next step to development creating a growing distance of text and text production from the body. Computer-written texts are stored electronically and can be published in the Internet or on CD without ever materializing as printers ink on paper. The physical act of writing starts to radically change by writing programmes. Writing with classic writing utensils, be it a ball pen or typewriter, requires synchronization of thinking and movement of the hand in an act of concentration, as well as synchronization of the speed of thoughts and the inertia of the head.Latest writing programmes only require typing the first letters of a word for the computer to write the word automatically. The author changes from the word to the initial writer. The act of writing. Placing one letter of a word after the other, is only rudimentary. The physical translation of the thought word stops halfway. The writing pages are filled by the computer action.
A view on the historic development shows the fundamental change in meaning and function of handwriting: By the invention of book printing translation of handwritten manuscripts into mechanically reproducible print patterns became possible. In computer-written texts reproducibility is already established in the manuscript. Before the invention of book printing handwritten books were copied by handwriting. They turned to a “ representative public” and were closely connected to the monasteries as a place of erudition and administration of canonized knowledge. After the invention of book printing handwriting increasingly became an expression of privacy, especially in handwritten letters, showing repeated transfers of meaning until today. Thus, telefax transmissions brought back a renaissance of handwriting, whereas the handwriting in Ietters and private transmissions are increasingly replaced by computer-aided SMS transmissions due to increased accelleration.
Books become pictures
When Lars Koepsel copies entire books by handwriting in his latest works, a process that is strongly reminiscent of monastic copyist work in pre-Gutenberg timers. Like the monks he selects those books out of the fund ,which are of interest beyond historical moments. This means for Koepsel: philosophic texts from Platon to Michel de Montaigne to Ludwig Wittgenstein. Contrarily to monastic copyist work his work does not aim at preserving and spreading copied books. Looking at the possibilities of latest reproduction techniques the handwritten copy would be a very unproductive venture. At the end of Koepsels act of writing there is no handwritten book, but a singular picture a text picture with an illegible text. If the comparison with monastic practice may be continued at all, than to the fact that Koepsels copyist work which sometimes requires months resembles religious exercises. The continuous act of copying may be seen as an exercise which eludes the present dictate of speed and sales concentrating "body and soul" in a certain enrapture of time.
Koepsels copyist work represents a specific form of acquisition of existing cultural expressions thus approaching a post-modern discourse crystallized in appropriation art. The relation to the own body is important in his handwritten acquisition of philosophic texts. It is generally known that texts are assimilated more intensely when they are copied. Handwriting obviously copies the text in the brain. But not only the act of writing brings the body into play, but also the copied text that becomes illegible as a result of permanent overlappings and whose meaning disappears behind its physis turns out to be a text body.
A comparable text-body understanding is already fundamental in concrete poetry. Koepsels text acquisition comes to pass in different writing layers ending in a kind of exercise of blank space. It is decisive that Lars Koepsel writes the layers not only one over the other in a linear way, but he turns the sheet by 90 degrees so that an illegible text pattern results. During the act of writing in the beginning the text remains legible, the more text layers are added - up to twelve layers - the more the act of writing approaches the absurd, the writing sheets become darker and the letters become less identifiable. The writer is writing but he does not anymore recognize the letters and contents he is writing. Although the text is physically experienced by writing, it eludes optical control in physical experience the denser the overlappings become. The handwritten act of writing _ increasingly proves to be for its own sake. The hand is writing a text whose meaning disappears by writing and has to be imagined despite physical realization.
By writing different text layers over each other the copied book turns into a product of depositions - it becomes its own palimpsest. At the same time the transition from text to picture is realized by turning and forming layers. Following Villem Flusser, writing is characterized by linearity, the picture, viewed from the electronic shape is characterized by a all-over-pixel-wavestructure. Koepsel realized the transition from text to picture in the sense of transition from linear to flat added. The overlapping text parts form a condense text, a densely knit net, a text texture covering the entire plane. Linear succession turns into woven overlap. By intentionally emphazising irregularities resulting from overlapping writing figures, Koepsel turns the text into an ornament and element for abstract configurations inserting in the tradition of suprematistic and concrete art.
Lars Koepsels adoption of philosophic texts ends in a pattern having absorbed the sense of the text, in a kind of mandala of emptiness, in which time and meaning within the text body neutralize.