What is visual writing?
This is a question with which my tutor, Anna Gerber is fascinated. Along with Britt Iverson, Anna has co-founded Visual Editions, a London-based press that is attempting to examine, experiment with and maybe even answer the question.
Visual Editions breathes new life into books that use visual writing as a storytelling technique. The press also works with writers (who already visual writers) to publish something new. Visual writing isn’t about pictures or illustrations. The way Anna and Britt see it, visual writing is another one of the tools in an author’s kit of writing techniques that is essential to the story of the book. In other words, neither visual writing nor the book would stand its own. Or, in some more other words, as a complete work, the book wouldn’t exist without visual writing. Or, for even more other words, check out what the New York Times had to say:
“…Their first book is a new edition of Laurence Sterne’s 1759 comic novel “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman,” designed by A Practice for Everyday Life. It is filled with visual jokes: a closed door is illustrated by a folded page; beads of sweat by spots of varnish; and the famous “black page” in the original book is replaced by two pages on which the text is over-printed in black.
For Visual Editions’ second book, to be published next month, the American novelist Jonathan Safran Foer created a new story, “The Tree of Codes,” by cutting up the text of one of his favorite books, “The Street of Crocodiles,” by Bruno Schulz. Chunks of original text have been removed by die-cutting, leaving the remaining words to tell the story.”
The Tree of Codes is something you have never seen before. It’s an excited step that makes a print-will-live-forever sap like me even sappier. On a night like the 5th of November, I especially admire those who question the status quo. Print’s not dying. You’ll see. Just watch a video of reactions to the book —which looks normal by all outward appearances — and then check out what’s inside on the Visual Editions website. Whether you own a Kindle or continue to the bounded add to your bookshelves, visual writing deserves attention.