Cut / Slash / Chop / Slice / Shatter
This Headline got me thinking. That accent above the É, I thought it was called a grave (which would have been fitting) but it is in-fact an acute accent (which is all the more fitting considering the meaning of the word, acute), only used over the e by the French, for me it took on a conceptual turn. The accent looks almost like a guillotine blade lowering into that E and that got me thinking about cutting up text, which led me to the 70s typeface, Shatter.
Shatter was designed by British designer Vic Carless in 1973 for Letraset. It is basically a chopped-up, agitated version of the modernist Helvetica, perfect for the postmodern zeitgeist.
As I started to research I began to find that the typeface was quite poignant and started to tie in a few things, it seemed to epitomise the time, along with typewriter type and the cut and paste DIY aesthetic of punk.
Shatter was used for AC/DC’s Logo and title on their 1978 album Powerage. The Lighting bolt was a significant discovery as it tied in the New York Blackout of July 13 1977.
This cover of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer sums up the tension surrounding the summer of ’77 in New York City with the psychopathic serial killings of David Berkowitz a.k.a ‘Son of Sam’ who was still at large during the New York Blackout. Those lightning strikes and the subsequent blackout seemed to break the tension and flip the circuit breaker somehow, and things began to change in NY. Berkowitz was caught in August and a new mayor was elected to office later that year.
This idea of the psychopath being someone who is shattered, cracked and broken is illustrated well by Carless’ Shatter but clearly the psychopath wasn’t the only thing that was broken during the 70s, it became a metaphor for society as a whole and this manifest itself in the DIY techniques of collage used by the newly emerging Punks. The general sense of anxiety and paranoia in the face of economic hardships and the threat of the cold war, and the gradual entropy of the modernist ideology. This edgy, jittery, violent postmodern aesthetic was a mirror on the time.
This slashed up type got me looking more at collage, and through research into Linder Sterling, Punk zines and LP covers, I discovered the photo collages of John Stezacker and the prollages and rollages of Jiří Kolář, but i’ll talk about these in another post.
Other cut up, slashed or otherwise distressed typefaces
Lou Reed – Transformer
The psycho continues to be a source of fascination for us
And some more recent cut ups…
The Edge Amsterdam
Clash TV series (France)