Read This Square


December 5th, 2012

Language is secreted away in the black and white square markers in Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse’s Between Page and Screen (Siglio, 2012). The squares are seemingly inscrutable until a webcam and special software unlocks them. Then, language is not only revealed but becomes animate in an unexpected, wondrous augmented reality. Certainly special, but not quite new. Squares of all kinds for centuries—millenia, even—have contained missives of all sorts, sometimes hidden, and often multi-layered. Siglio intern Alexis Chuck gathered a few of them here.










  1. Log cabin quilt ca. 1880-1910. According to folk legend—repeated by generations of elementary school teachers—quilt patters were used by Underground Railroad to create coded maps. The log cabin pattern is said to have indicated safe houses. Featured in an online exhibition “Design Dynamics of Log Cabin Quilts: Selections from the Jonathan Holstein Collection” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  2. Mayan glyph. Mayan scripts contained both phonetic signs and logograms. The two could be used on their own or together. One word could be written in many different ways. These appear in a museum in Palenque, Mexico. Public domain, Wikipedia.
  3. Anonymous tantric painting from Rajasthan. “Having circled the sky of consciousness, the Goddess suddenly arrives at her source, her center, her sex. . . . A variant, more explicit: the tip of the arrow is replaced by a tiny golden triangle. Or perhaps this too: the great mask of the divinity with hollow eyes.” From Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme. Siglio Press, 2011.
  4. Marker. “Spintospinpinintopinspinto…” From Between Page & Screen by Amaranth Borsuk & Brad Bouse, Siglio Press, 2012.
  5. Persian magic square talisman. “To enable a woman to control her husband.” From The Patterns of Persian Henna by Catherine Cartwright-Jones, retrieved from blog Crush Evil.
  6. Stamp from the poem “Sunny After Snow” by Wang Xizhi. From a work by the “Sage of Calligraphy” who lived in China during the Jin Dynasty (265–420). Public domain, Wikipedia.
  7. Initial in “Portrait of the Author: Gaston Phoebus” ca. 1406. The beginning of a treatise on hunting. From Morgan Library & Museum Online Exhibition, Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands. Available online.
  8. Z (Zulu). In addition to the letter “Z” this flag can signal “I require a tug” or “I am shooting nets” in the system of international maritime signal flags. When followed by numerals, it indicates time. In 1905, it was used by Adm. Heihachiro Togo to mean “The Empire’s fate depends on the result of this battle, let every man do his utmost duty.” Public domain, Wikipedia.
  9. QR code. “Quick Response” codes were initially invented for use in vehicle manufacturing.
    Public domain, Wikipedia.

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