5/21 December 2018 Via Padova 27, Milan
The famous stone slab exhibited at the British Museum in London was discovered in 1799 in the ancient Egyptian town of Rosetta. The stone surface, dating back to 196 B.C., carries the same engraved text in three different alphabets, including Greek, which was the only language known at the time of the discovery. It was this extraordinary circumstance that made it possible to decode the hieroglyphic characters, that up to that point were unknown.
The idea of Codex, a code writing system by Alessandro Costariol, comes from this historical back-story. The project develops around an essential geometric shape, comprising a square divided into nine identical squares: a grille, which by using the combinations offered by alternating empty and full squares, produces 37 graphic symbols (26 letters, 10 numbers and an extra symbol for decimals). The result is a system of signs that is suitable for communicating and transmitting messages: This is an encrypted alphabet that nobody has the key for apart from its creator. Like a secret diary with a padlock, Codex is an intimate, private alphabet that produces a self-portrait in code.
By playing on the ambivalence between graphic sign and symbol, Codex confronts us with the paradox of an illegible message that is buried in total mystery. The signs appear to be incomprehensible, reduced to their outer appearance and their purely graphic and decorative value. In what we know to be a text, all we read is a sequence of geometric glyphs that are serial like the matrix that created them: signs that seem to automatically reproduce themselves and that stand out before us, totally impenetrable.
The result is an alternation of signs and colours that restore both the urban environment and the home interior using everyday items such as medicine packages, creating a short circuit between what we see and the information that we would like to access.
Through its aseptic language, Codex seems to take us back to point zero of communication: a galactic space of signs precedes the distinction between text and image, without any frills or poetry, and interrogates us about the boundary area where graphics are always positioned. In the era ruled by algorithms, where every piece of information can be accessed immediately, Codex and its silent message ring out as a challenge and provocation to the certainties we take for granted.
Photo: Alberto Strada