M Square index
The keyboard
Spaced Out
Anything can B
Dutch Type

TRIBE 03: M SQUARE: Romboutese

A = Angular
B = Barred
C = Curve
D = Deviation
E = Elbow
F = Fluctuation
G = Grooves
  H = Hairpin
I = Inlet
J = Jimmy
K = Key pattern
L = Lancet
M = Meander
N = Node
  O = Ogee
P = Peristaltic
Q = Quadrangula
R = Rhombic
S = Snake-like
T = Tortuous
U = Uneven
  V = Vault
W = Wavy
X = X-axis
Y = Y-axis
Z = Zigzag
and White
Former printer-typographer and visual artist Guy Rombouts (1949) has strong feelings about the relationship between form and content in language. He believes the conventional symbols of the written word are purely arbitrary and inadequate for expressing certain ideas and feelings.

Rombouts' fascination with this “inadequacy” has led him to develop his own “more expressive” system of written language. He has taken the 26 letters of the alphabet and created replacements with new shapes. For instance, an angular line stands for A, a curve for C. a zigzag for Z, etc. By combining these lines into word-polygons, Rombouts has created a writing system that makes language look like a continuous flow and, he claims, gives it “another, new reality.”

“Romboutese” is the artist’s own pictorial language, whose applications he claims to be boundless. He has extended the alphabet’s visual aspect by providing each of the 26 lines with its own color (aquamarine, Bordeaux red. etc.) and matching noise (aha, brrbrr, sshssh, kdoink, etc.)
  so that Romboutese can be appreciated aurally as well as orally.

Much of his work is based on quotations. For the “Initiatief X6” exhibition, held in Gent, Belgium, he designed a complete classroom in which the tables were English nouns. The seats were in the form of the quotation “... harden to the object on which we are sitting, and abstract nouns acquire the firmness of the table.” (Stefan Thennerson, “Logic, Labels and Flesh”)

At the Bienale ‘87 in Sao Paulo. Brazil, Rombouts is one of three artists representing Belgium. Rombouts will be showing both with his classroom and a computer installation that generates Romboutese, for which Teun de Lange wrote the program on an Apple 11 GS. The program first processes the language, and then uses a ‘turtle’ to draw the word-picture on a large piece of paper. Rombouts sees the program as a way to let other people use his very idiosyncratic pictorial language creatively too.

More about Guy Rombouts and Monica Droste
Guy Rombouts in Hyper Space
This is a reprint of an article by Max Kisman in Language Technology/Electric Word #2, July/August 1987.
Background image: “Tribe Space” in Romboutese.