Direcção Geral das Artes / Ministério da Cultura

Catalogue for the exhibition of artist duo João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, as the official Portuguese representation at the Venice Biennale 2009. The project’s title is borrowed from the Joseph Priestley’s book in which the author presents a series of scientific experiments on air and gas, namely his discovery of oxygen.
The book’s colophon justifies some of the formal options: “The primary font used throughout this book is John Baskerville Text, in a version digitalised in 2001 from a collection of rare books originally printed by John Baskerville circa 1750. This typeface exudes the original spirit of Baskerville’s creations, reinforcing the strongly contrasted strokes, fine serifs and exquisitely fluid lines, enhancing the rhythm of the italics. The main physical characteristics of his typeface are the open loop of the lowercase “g”, a swash-like tail on the “Q”, the pointed apex of the “A” and a distinct cursive uppercase “J”. John Baskerville (1706-1775) was a headstone engraver, atheist and anti-clerical, master of calligraphy, typographer and printer in Birmingham, home city to the Lunar Society, an informal group of industrialists, natural philosophers and intellectuals whose ranks included Joseph Priestley whose work gives its name to this exhibition, and Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather. There is no record of these gentlemen ever having met; however, Benjamin Franklin, an associate of the Lunar Society, did meet Baskerville and greatly preferred his innovative print work to the Caslon typeface that predominated in that era. Baskerville drew upon his knowledge of printing inks and paper production to manufacture improved black ink and perfect the quality of paper. He made the most of blank space within his book layouts, and tried to keep ornament to a minimum, in his quest for austere and elegant books.”

Curator: Natxo Checa
Artists: João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva
Editor: Mattia Denisse
Art direction: António Silveira Gomes (designer) and Cláudia Castelo (project manager)
Graphic designer: Patrícia Maya
Produced materials: catalogue, posters, invitations and press ads

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Portuguese and English versions