Lorem Ipsum… (Part 1: Genesis of an idea)

NOTE: This is the first part in a series of posts documenting the progress of an Art installation I am working on with the working title “Lorem Ipsum…”. Look for other posts about it under the heading Fine Art/Installation Art/Lorem Ipsum in the navigation header above.

"man" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 by J. Thomson, all rights reserved Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet… is a standardized passage of dummy text used since the 16th century by printers and graphic designers in place of actual text, when creating a layout or typeface for example.

As a fine artist and graphic designer, I often use text in my artwork. I like the additional layers of meaning pieces of text can contribute to a painting or collage, but the whole content of the piece never relies on the text alone. Although the line between graphic design and art is sometimes blurred, for me it is a question of what takes precedence in a piece: the text/typography, or the art/graphics. It is the marriage of both that creates the visual content of the pieces I create.
"blame" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson All rights reservedLast week, I was brainstorming for some ideas for a new series of artwork I wanted to create. I had this idea of digitally printing a design onto fabric (instead of painting it). I thought it would be interesting to see some graphic design (with text) but put it in the context of a gallery or other fine art setting. But because I like making things (as opposed to simply designing them on the computer and printing them out) I decided to add another layer to the piece by painstakingly hand-embroidering each letter in the text. Doing so adds an element of “hand made” and craft to the piece, which otherwise might come across as rather dead.

I had the idea of creating an installation of a multitude of bubbles (circular canvases), each with a single word on it, superimposed over the image of an eye. Taken together, the installation would spell out a quotation.

But what text to use?
"demoralized" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson, all rights reserved So, I did what designers have done for 500 years… I used Lorem ipsum… until I could figure out a “real” quote. But that got me wondering about the origins of the “lorem ipsum” text itself, and whether it had any meaning. A little research later, I discovered (to my surprise) that lorem ipsum is NOT fake latin, as I had originally thought. It actually comes from two paragraphs of text written in 45 BCE by Cicero, the ancient Roman senator and philosopher. Sometime in the middle ages, when the printing press was bleeding-edge technology, a printer mixed up a galley of type to produce a type specimen book, and Lorem ipsum… was born. It took 20th century researchers to discover the original text by searching for other uses in Latin literature of the less common Latin words in the phrase.
"by" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson, all rights reserved It turns out that the undoubtable source of lorem ipsum… is “de finibus bonorum et malorum” (The extremes of good and evil) by Cicero, circa 45 BCE. The book is a treatise on the theory of ethics (according to Wikipedia, I haven’t read it myself…. yet.) It’s the second of the two paragraphs that I decided to use for my text. The English translation is quoted at the end of this post.

With a quote this size, this project becomes a daunting one. But as I mentioned in a previous post, one thing I’ve learned about art is that to be successful, you have to think big and add zeroes. So I’ve written up a complete project proposal and figured out a budget for the project, for the purposes of seeking a grant. Doing a full installation, with almost 300 individual words (in the original Latin, plus the English translation) will cost over $15,000 and take about 1,700 man-hours to complete. I also included figures for an English-only version that is under $10,000 and 1,000 man-hours. (If you have any recommendations for grants, please forward them to me!)
"that" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson, all rights reserved I am currently in the design-phase of the mockup. For this version, I’m using photographs of eyes downloaded from Google images, but in the real piece I would like to use photographs taken by me to avoid any unnecessary criticism about the sources of the images. I’ve already designed and ordered a sample printing on fabric, which I will then embroider when I receive the fabric. A few sample word/images are shown here.

The next update on this project will show the actual fabric, and a test of the embroidery. Here is the full quotation. Words in bold (in the original Latin) are the source of the Lorem ipsum… text.

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains. tweet


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