Wednesday 21 April 2010

@ n'at.

The Department of Architecture and Design of the Museum of Modern Art in New York recently acquired @ for its collection. How's that, you say (or how's th@)? The MoMA Inside/Out Blog posted about why and how it acquired @, and the post includes a brief history of @ from the sixth century to the modern era. The blog explains that "The acquisition of @ ... relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that “cannot be had”—because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747’s, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @—as art objects befitting MoMA’s collection."
The blog adds "Being in the public realm, @ is free. It might be the only truly free—albeit not the only priceless—object in our collection. We have acquired the design act in itself and as we will feature it in different typefaces, we will note each time the specific typeface as if we were indicating the materials that a physical object is made of."
The blogpost concludes that " @ symbol is now part of the very fabric of life all over the world. Nowhere is this more vividly demonstrated than in the affectionate names @ has been given by different cultures. Germans, Poles, and South Africans call @ “monkey’s tail” in each different language. Chinese see a little mouse, and Italians and the French, a snail. For the Russians @ symbolizes a dog, while the Finnish know @ as the miukumauku, meaning the “sign of the meow,” and believe that the symbol is inspired by a curled-up sleeping cat. The @ symbol has become so significant that people feel they need to make sense of it; hence it has inspired its own folkloric tradition.
The @ sign is such an extraordinary mediating symbol that recently in the Spanish language it has begun to express gender neutrality; for example, in the typical expression Hola l@s viej@s amig@s y l@s nuev@s amig@s! (Hello old friends and new friends!) Its potential for such succinct negotiations (whether between man and machine, or between traditional gender classifications and the current spectrum) and its range of application continue to expand. It has truly become a way of expressing society’s changing technological and social relationships, expressing new forms of behavior and interaction in a new world."A Pittsburgher would add "n'@".

No comments: