... Avec Excoffon

Åbäke, Fiona Banner, Laure Provoust, Liam Gillick, Martin Firrell, Ryan Gander, Stephane Le Mercier

Curated by IFF

August 2011

IFF's project is in part a celebration of the centenary of Roger Excoffon (1910-1983), the Marseille typographer & graphic designer responsible for numerous classic fonts such as Banco, Mistral, Antique Olive, Choc and others. IFF commissioned a number of artists and designers to create new text posters which relate, utilize or appropriate some aspect of Excoffon's work.  The resulting posters are on view….

IFF is a project space that is dedicated to showing a diversity of international contemporary art and is currently based in Marseille, France. IFF is somewhat nomadic. It previously existed in Houston, Texas (2001-02) and in 2009 it was based in Aix en Provence, France.


Åbäke, Attenborough for Prime Minister , 2011

A meeting of politics and football. Referencing the Marseille native, Zinédine Zidane, the poster also incorporates a Marianne (the representation of the French state), based on a design by Excoffon which was intended for postage stamps but never put into production. The practice of the symbolic figure of the Marianne being based on real people has lead to instances of Laetitia Casta, Catherine Deneuve or Brigitte Bardot being used as models for busts in town halls.

Fiona Banner, untitled, 2010

Banner's poster approaches the notion of text in an contrary way, seeking to find an opposite to advertising and message. The seams and folds of the body and paper connect seek to connect back to the intimacy of words and the physicality of text. While the abstraction of the form makes textual and punctuation like references. In particular a link to Excoffon is apparent in the shared attention to the individual expression through type design. Excoffon used his own handwriting as the basis of the font Mistral, and there is also an obvious sultptural dimension to many of his fonts (such as Clypso, Banco, etc.) For Banner, with this poster, language is understood as an extension of us and where the references are "aural and as much as to typographical."

Laure Provoust, untitled, 2010

The text by Prouvost (by using Excoffon's Antique Olive) explores the authority of the text, in particular when used in public places. Antique Olive was Excoffon's contribution to the growth of the sans-serif fonts in the 1960s, which aimed at creating contemporary and pragmatic type design.


Liam Gillick, Les Ciels/Cieux de France, 2010

Gillick's poster relates to Excoffon's work as creative director for Air France. Yet Gillick use of language highlights the dual meaning of 'Ciel' in French as referring to sky or heaven. This lends the work to carry a utopian spirit.


Martin Firrell, L'éloquence du Silence/The Eloquence of Silence, 2010

"I wrote 'To understand a thing fully is to be able to say nothing about it" in the mid 90s for a manifesto titled 'Lucid Between Bouts of Sanity' for the Literaturnaya Café in St Petersburg. Throughout the middle years of the 90s I was intrigued by the idea of understanding and the counter role of mystery and I came to the eventual conclusion that in the face of complete understanding our answer could only be to fall silent. Were our understanding ever to be complete we would have no need of words, no need to add anything further, no need of further discussion.

"For the Excoffon show, I wanted to revisit this definition of complete expertise in Excoffon's honour. I decided to place the text in a landscape field to signal this poster's difference from the fly posting around it. I made the field black so that the poster would act as a covering-up of any previous posters flyposted beneath it - a form of visual negation to suggest or echo the idea of silence addressed in the text.

"The Excoffon font used is Antique Olive hand-kerned because I have always felt the given letter spacing of the face is a little loose. I also wanted to craft the type for the particular combination of letter forms in this sentence to present Antique Olive in the most flattering light." Martin Firrell, 2010


Stéphane Le Mercier, Plan Réel, 2010

"In the June issue of 1968, the review magazine: Plexus (directed by the esoterist Louis Pauwels), the Marseille sculptor César presents, over eight pages, a surprising reading of his work that is entirely dedicated to the beauty of the female body. This reading can be considered as a regressive symptom of modernity (the Nouveaux Réalistes pursued an international adventure which will be, undoubtedly, the last French avant-garde movement)? For this other Marseillais, Roger Excoffon, creator at the time of the logo of Air France. His typographical creations will be in the Seventies largely employed on the covers of soft porn and punk fanzines. Thus "eternal" France is the promotion of a fictitious, PLANE REAL magazine and with the improbable fusion of the historical avant-gardes and Pigalle aesthetics." Stéphane Le Mercier, le 6 janvier 2011.

Ryan Gander, A title that is the work, 2011

A fly-poster of a pangram that reads: Monsieur Jack, vous dactylographiez bien mieux que votre ami Wolf (Mister Jack, you type much better than your friend Wolf - apparently it was used in the Swiss army to check the keyboard of typewriters before teletransmission) produced from a typeface called 'Excoffonscript' designed by the artist (made by Christine Jones) incorporating the entire overlapped alphabets from existing typefaces Antique Olive, Banco, Calypso, Chambord, Choc and Mistral by Marseille's typographer & graphic designer Roger Excoffon.

Artist Biographies

Åbäke is a design studio based in London, consisting of four people: Patrick Lacey, Benjamin Reichen, Kajsa Stahl and Maki Suzuki from Wales, France and Sweden. Åbäke works with and for a wide range of clients including singers, bands, artists, universities, architects, museums, furniture designers, fashion designers, film production companies, art trusts and magazines. They co-edit and design the magazine Sexymachinery, an architectural production, and co-direct a clothing and record label called Kitsune. Clients include The Cardigans, Maison Martin Margiela, Peter Jensen, Bookworks, and the British Council.

Martin Firrell is a French artist who creates text-based pieces for public spaces. His work has appeared in the form of digital projections and installed type, on cinema canopies and ticket backs, on till receipts, and in public toilets. Robbed of their usual context, Firrell's often provocative words take on different emphases and meanings.

'Firrell has reinvented poetry for the 21st Century: text in public spaces that takes the lid off ideas like truth, memory and fear.' – International Herald Tribune

Firrell's recent projects include: I Want to Live in a City Where, National Gallery, London; When the World's Run by Fools It's the Duty of Intelligence to Disobey, Houses of Parliament, London; All Men Are Dangerous, Tate Britain, London.

Fiona Banner

Much of Fiona Banner's work explores the problems and possibilities of written language. Banner's current work encompasses sculpture, drawing and installation but text is still at the heart of her practice. She recently turned her attention to the idea of the classic, art-historical nude, observing a life model and transcribing the pose and form in a similar vein to her earlier transcription of films. Often using parts of military aircraft as the support for these descriptions, Banner juxtaposes the brutal and the sensual, performing an almost complete cycle of intimacy and alienation.

In 2010 Fiona Banner's Duveen's Commission Harrier and Jaguar was shown at Tate Britain and her solo exhibition The Naked Ear was on view at Frith Street Gallery. Banner's work has been included in a large number of exhibitions both in Europe and the USA. She is represented in many important collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum; Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis; The Arts Council of England and the Tate Gallery, London. She was short-listed for the Turner Prize 2003.

Ryan Gander has exhibited widely in museums and galleries throughout the world and has a major solo exhibition at Haus Konstruktiv. He has had a number of solo museum exhibitions including CCA Wattis, San Francisco, Villa Arson, Nice, MUMOK Vienna, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the DAIWA Viewing Rooms, Hiroshima. Gander lives and works in London and Suffolk.

Liam Gillick is an artist based in London and New York. Solo exhibitions include The Wood Way, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2002; A short text on the possibility of creating an economy of equivalence, Palais de Tokyo, 2005 and the retrospective project Three Perspectives and a short scenario, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Kunsthalle Zurich, Kunstverein, München and the MCA, Chicago, 2008-2010. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002 and the Vincent Award at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2008. Many public commissions and projects include the Home Office in London (2005) and the Dynamica Building in Guadalajara, Mexico (2009). Liam Gillick was selected to represent Germany for the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. A major exhibition of his work opened at the Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in April 2010. He has taught at Columbia University in New York since 1997 and the Centre for Curatorial Studies at Bard College since 2008. Public collections include: Government Art Collection, UK; Arts Council, UK; Tate, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. 

Stéphane Le Mercier is an artist based in Marseilles. He frequently works with text, and in 2008, he projected a series animated of texts on the central station of Stuttgart, a work entitled Einladung 18. Under its recent projects, let us mention the publication of Gift (Marseilles: Editions P, 2008); l' exposure the Curtain to Art3, Valence (2007); and Après, Gallery RLBQ (2006). 

Laure Provoust is a French artist and filmmaker who lives and works in London, England. She graduated from Central St Martins College of Arts in 2002 and her MFA at Goldsmith College. In 2009 she completed the LUX Artiste Associette Programme. Her work, includes painting, video, sound and site-specific works has exhibited extensively , Lightbox Tate Britain, London, BFI, London, Form Contente, London, EAST International, Norwich, MOT Gallery, London, After the boutcher, Berlin, Lighthouse, Brighton, Monika Bobinska Gallerie, London, CCCB, Barcelona, St Gervais centre , Geneva, Zoo Art Faire, London, LUX, London, NMFP Bradford. She wone the EAST International Award 2009 in Norwich UK. She is also director of tank.tv, the online platform for artists' work in mouving images, since 2003. Her videos are distributed by LUX and is represented by MOT international.