When Oded Ezer first conceived of a piece inspired by Memory Palace – a popular graphic novel by Hari Kunzru – the experimental designer literally hungered for something different. So he resolved to shoot a visceral (borderline grotesque) video of himself ravenously devouring bits of edible typography spelling out key concepts in the dystopian novel.
“Instead of making a two-dimensional poster, I thought it would be more powerful to show me eating the letters,” Ezer explained to students and other who came to hear him speak in the RISD Auditorium earlier this week. “It’s a way of interpreting the brutal death of the novel’s protagonist.”
The looping video is included inSky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace, a multidimensional group exhibition now on view at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Ezer made his edible type from ocean kelp and soy sauce. “I find that people visiting the museum will stare for hours at my work, trying to figure out what the letters are spelling,” he says. “I couldn’t eat seaweed for a month after the video was complete.”
This fall the critically acclaimed Israeli designer is teaching at RISD as theGraphic Design department’s Designer in Residence. His extended visit is made possible by the Schusterman Visiting Artist Program, an initiative spearheaded by the Foundation for Jewish Culture to facilitate residencies for Israeli artists at colleges and cultural institutions throughout North America.
Ezer’s October 1 presentation is complemented by an exhibition of his work, which has been showcased and published worldwide, at the Graphic Design Gallery (1st floor of the Design Center). It will also be shown this fall at thestudent-run gallery at Brown/RISD Hillel (in Brown’s Glenn and Darcy Weiner Center).
In addition to his video work, Ezer is well known for his reinterpretation of theI Love New York logo originally designed by Milton Glaser in 1977. Inspired by the universal appeal of the design, the Israeli designer made a large-scale poster that makes the wild, curly lettering appear to be jumping off the page. “I like to pay homage to the artists who I look up to,” he told students last Tuesday. Now, his work, like Glaser’s, is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, along with being included in the collections at the Israel Museum and the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich in Switzerland, among others.
In an age dominated by digital technology, Ezer provided a particularly poignant piece of advice to the audience this week. “I found through my work that the Internet can make you feel like everything has been done before,” he noted. “It can make you feel like there’s no more room for artistic creativity. But I’m here to tell you the good news that it’s not true. The real [art] happens inside your mind.”