Mazmanian Gallery showcases Soe Lin Post’s musical masterpieces
By Emma Lyons
Arts & Features Editor
The Mazmanian Gallery hosted a reception with graphic designer Soe Lin Post to introduce his new exhibit “Typosonic” in the Alumni Room Sept. 20.
Post is the director of design at Wellesley College and has worked there for the past 11 years. He has previously worked at Harmonix, a Boston-based game development company, as a user interface designer.
Professor Stephanie Grey welcomed everyone to the event and introduced Post. She explained she met him when they attended the Rhode Island School of Design both pursuing their master’s degrees.
“Soe Lin’s contemplative nature and curious outlook was readily apparent. He was always deeply devoted to design, to the design process,” Grey said.
Post’s devotion to design resulted in a thesis project centered around typography and sound, she said.
Grey also read a text from a friend of Post’s, who connected Myanmar culture to his work. “This breaking of boundaries in order to reassemble them into new systems of knowledge is exactly what Soe Lin is doing in his design work,” she said.
Grey added the work displayed in the gallery was created through several years of Post refining his experimental work.
“This connection between the maker and the work illuminates for us the valuable process that is necessary for a lifetime of sustained creativity,” Grey said.
Post thanked Grey along with Ellie Krakow, the director of the Mazmanian Gallery, and the University.
He began by playing a video displaying a montage of clips from ’80s movies over the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. He explained that he was born during the “MTV generation” and he had to individually rent videotapes from MTV.
“I just couldn’t get enough. But what I was really interested in was also the gadgets - the instruments that the musicians would use,” Post said.
He said using sound in his art was sparked by his interest in musical instruments.
Post said he originally studied philosophy in college, but was introduced to graphic design through helping a publication department.
He showed an image of a mini disc player, calling it his “little time machine” which allows him to take the past into the present.
As the moments from the past are taken out of context, they allow artists to give them new meanings, he said. “It’s this act of recontextualization that speaks, and that sparks my creativity,” he said.
Post discussed how voices and words can become incoherent when recording a large crowd, and those sounds become a chorus of voices with no clear meaning.
He showed his experimental nature by using Hype software - commonly used to create website prototypes - in order to make his presentation for the event.
He then read an excerpt from his thesis about procrastination. “The beginning always seems to be the hardest part - so let’s start with the end. But where is the end? And where is the beginning? Maybe they both exist simultaneously,” he said.
Post then began his presentation on the exhibit. He defined typosonic as his “inquiry into sound and its relationship to graphics.”
He had the crowd sit in silence for a few moments in order to observe that noise still exists within silence. He spoke about John Cage, a musician, who used silence and chance operations to create music from his audience sitting in silence.
Post connected Cage’s experimentation with chance operations to his own design process. “To me, chance operations are really initiating an action and simply observing the unpredictable behaviors in time,” he said.
He presented an example of his own work with chance operations by showing an excerpt of Dutch writing in which he identified patterns within the letters. From those patterns, he created a choral composition based on what he thought the pattern would sound like.
Post showed another example of chance operations that did not need any computer programs. He displayed clippings of various posters he had designed, and demonstrated that through rearranging the posters in different order, something new could be made.
“Now they’re out of context, and then you can recontextualize them to create a new poster every time,” he said.
He then moved on to talk about the idea of sound having physical properties and what they would look like.
Post explained how the main components of sound could be translated into graphic properties. He compared volume to the size of a piece, duration to motion, pitch to intensity, timbre to different colors.
When he began with his typosonic work, he created images for each letter based on the shape that a mouth makes when speaking the words. He then explained how he used Adobe Illustrator in order to add to the image so they could blend together to make words.
“You can kind of manipulate different things with [Adobe Illustrator] and then come up with these things that you normally might not be able to see immediately,” Post said.
Post displayed some newer studies with typsonic he had created specifically for the gallery - some of which were posters he had crafted to illustrate songs he liked.
He explained he used Adobe Audition to see the sound waves of the music and superimposed them over an image related to the song. In doing that, it distorted the image and morphed it to the shape of the sound waves.
After creating the image, he added some typosonic waves he had previously created in order to form the entire poster.
Post then moved on to talk about his experimentation with the radio wave feature in Adobe After Effects. He explained he spent a lot of time playing with features to familiarize himself with the program.
In order to illustrate a bit of the process of learning the program, he showed a video of his computer screen as he used different aspects of the programing to create different waves and explained how it worked.
To end his presentation, Post showed a final video, in which he used the radio wave feature to write out “Typosonic” and have each letter blend together.
Emily Monaco, sophomore studio art major and intern for the Mazmanian Gallery, said working to assemble the exhibits and being able to see the work that is displayed helps her find perspective of where her future career could bring her.
“It’s also a really great opportunity to meet artists in the field and learn about their experiences,” she said.
Grey is a friend of Post’s and was the person who reached out to him and brought his work to the campus community. “We were classmates in grad school, and I thought Soe Lin would be a good person to represent design to our students,” she said.
She added a lot of students could benefit from seeing Post’s work displayed as it showed professional design work alongside experimental design pieces.
“[The exhibit] has a lot of beautiful, thoughtful, and practical design work set aside a lot of experimental work that also speaks to the design and art process,” she said.