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pen and ink paper
64 x 33cm
collection: Sackner Archives of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Miami, Florida, USA


Microscopic Writing

  • This work consists of three microscopic writing tablets, on which the lines of writing have been arranged in such a way that they form unobtrusive panels. Inside the panel curves, the letters 'PRAYER' have been arranged anagrammatically in micro-script. No white margins have been left.


    I was looking for a writing activity that made heavy demands in terms of physical strength, optical sharpness and sense of duty, and decided to use micro-script. I wrote in this exacting way for ten to 15 minutes every morning for two years, without using a magnifying glass. (This kind of writing can be endured for only a quarter of an hour.)


    In KLEINPEN 1 I applied a form of self-censure. The act of writing, that is, the making of the piece involved not only the discipline needed for the writing, but also an attitude of devotion. The subject of the writing was 'prayer', and the writing of the micro-piece contained notes on meditation that I believed would help me acquire introspective knowledge. I copied out Dr. Andrew Murray's Prayer Life verbatim, and, following the themes he dealt with, practised the life of active prayer he described.


    Meditation and prayer effectively take place in seclusion. KLEINPEN 1 attempts to be secretive, as its text is written in such small letters that they are difficult to read. In STOKKIESKLUIS I made a secret space that had to be entered with careful deliberation. In this work, I created a level of self-discovery in the midst of a social game of hide-and-seek. The writing is not immediately noticeable; my idea was that ordinary grey paper that is low in definition would encourage participation, in that the writing and its contents could be discovered only on closer examination.


    Two orbits or cycles are described over three square pages. The text is rolled out like a ball of thread. It describes the cycles like a planet orbiting the sun. In this instance the planet is the 'thread' or line of thought of the piece, whereas the sun, namely 'prayer', is the theme of the piece. For that reason the word is spelled out anagrammatically on the cycles three times.


    In the New Testament, a charge is laid upon believers: the Word has to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), so that every space is filled with it. The most important space to be filled is the mind.


    Before the mechanical printing press was put into service, little or no white space was left open on handwritten pages. The word was 'applied' to every millimetre of writing space. In KLEINPEN 1 I followed this 'application'.


    (translated from Willem Boshoff's original thesis in Afrikaans titled 'Die Ontwikkeling en Toepassing van Visuele Letterkundige Verskynsels in die Samestelling van Kunswerke, Beeldhoukuns en Grafiese Kuns deur Willem Hendrik Adriaan Boshoff' submitted for his National Diploma in Technology, Witwatersrand Technikon, November 1984, page 64)

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