Friday, July 11, 2008

of architecture, words, and trees...

max bill

this morning i woke up with max bill's name running through my head, for no apparent reason. i don't know if this ever happens to others, but there are days when a word or a name continuously bounces into consciousness in a kind of repetitive frenzy, sometimes for an entire day. so now i am in the midst of the words 'max bill' being constantly spoken to me by my brain. it's only 7 am, but i am already a bit tired of hearing it inside me. nonetheless, how could i not begin to notice how nice his name sounds being spoken with only two syllables (is there anyone with a real name that is only one?). it seems to me that along with the sound of his name, the look of the spelling, the short form of the words, it completely fits the austere lines of his architecture, and the clean precision of his graphics, paintings, and sculpture. say his name or look at it as a graphic form, and know the meaning and the relationship is almost perfect. it is as if all of the work that he made, came out of looking at his own name, and quietly repeating it to himself... max bill, max bill, max bill, max bill...

yesterday i emailed a friend to ask about the german word for tree, and i was surprised to find that it is the word 'baum'. unlike the wonderful relationship to the words max bill and every thing that came from the hands of max bill (actually even his hairstyle...); i can't find the word 'baum' feeling anything like a tree when i hear it or see it. in fact, it sends me everywhere but to the idea of tree. this is one of the first times that english actually trumps another language in terms of the relationship of a word spoken and seen, to the object it represents. for me the word tree in english sounds kind of like the form of a tree, with a heavy root system in the spoken beginning "tr" and then shooting up to the sky with the sound "ee". if you place it on its side, with the 'T' at the bottom you will see what i mean. it also seems connected to a tree visually, with the "t" seeming like a trunk and limbs, the 'r' being a curved branch coming off the stronger "t" frame, and the pair of "e"s feeling a lot like leaves.

if one wants to get deeper in all of this, one remembers that max bill was swiss, and i'm pretty sure he spoke german, so the word "baum" came out of his mouth many times. i'm wondering what 'baum' sounded like when max bill spoke it, or how it looked written in his hand. did either make the word any more tree-like... or perhaps less so?

the severity of bill's name and the seemingly small feeling of the word 'baum' suggest to me a kind of small tree skeleton, more like the skeleton of a tiny bird, but feeling like a fall tree without any leaves. now i can almost see this 'baum' looking hand drawn in ink against a relatively light sky. this kind of tree could be a tree, but it would still suggest architecture and graphic language. it would be a max bill tree, or i suppose der max bill baum...

above, you will understand the joy one feels when by some small bit of magic, one writes a bit, and then uncovers absolute perfection in the archives. i don't know who or what guided me to this photo of bill, looking very much like the words 'max bill', holding in his hands not only his architecture, but clearly a few tiny max bill baums... i can't help but feel that this photo is of the man contemplating the sounds of his own name in relation to his own architecture and to the word tree written and spoken in many languages...

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