Ben Van Dyke
Michigan State University


Volatile!, an exhibition curated by design historian, Debra Riley Parr, presents objects and experiences that invite speculative connections between poetry and scent. The term “volatile” refers to the top notes of a perfume, the molecules that disperse quickly and are gone within the first few seconds once a scent meets the air. Consistent with this reaction, I built a typographic installation that generated a complex environment that embodies volatility by challenging tradition of stability in visual language.

Informed by critical theory and crypto-linguistics, my work uses language and letterforms as communicative yet enigmatic systems. Language and form therefore become embodiments of the sociopolitical dialogues and discords between individuals as well as cultures, extending the formal power of graphic design to function as sociopolitical engagement. The Volatile! installation used the physicality of type to illicit a visceral response that transcends the binary relationship viewers have to traditional typography.