NOVUM/Gebrauchsgrafik - commercial art magazine, August 1986 edition, author: Philipp Luidl

The mirror on the wall and the daily question of "Who am I?" have, in the work of Susanne Dorendorff, found graphic representation. What she sees staring back at her in ink is her very own self—the mirth as well as the bitterness.

Readable texts, a word made visible—who do we write for and for how much longer? Isn’t the media creating a world almost entirely made up of images? Do they not strive to seize the word? To take advantage of it? To use it for their own ends? But not with the aim of eradicating it as a vehicle of propaganda, slander, hurt or death. They want to get hold of words that reverberate like bells.

But in a land of high-pitched sirens, do we still need bells? Do we even need the human voice? It is droned out by the sound of millions of automobiles every day. Has not a new language already emerged all around us—with a new alphabet made up of red, yellow and green.

There are many questions and we could ask them ad infinitum. There are also many answers. But how sincere would the exclamation marks really be?

Susanne Dorendorff has made an honest yet none too cushy abode for language. She has allowed it time to catch its breath, to reverberate. And that which she houses has a chance of survival. In other words, it is possible to bring back all of the forgotten words.

We can watch Carmen dance again—and bleed to death. We can see love in all its fragility, no matter how incorrectly we utter its name. We can follow the artistic logic of Rodin’s thoughts. None of this can be referred to as calligraphy—it is an overused concept that has been written about to death.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said that to be effective you must first make sure your tools are good. Susanne Dorendorff is not one to shy away from using different writing instruments—be it a quill or a wood shaving. She often even replaces one tool for another in mid-sentence, or changes color mid-word. She does not need words for her pens and colors, she needs pens and colors for her words. Sometimes her texts are bashful, and that is when Susanne Dorendorff decides not to set any traps. Instead, she waits for the words to come to her; she waits for them to come drink the ink from her hand. This kind of intimacy is vital for her work and not only requires a profound knowledge of her medium, but also a great amount of patience. "At the beginning, I felt how the script made use of me," admits Susanne Dorendorff. "But now I feel that I make use of it," she continues.

Susanne Dorendorff once asked me how I had reached my opinion of her work, and I was not able to reply immediately. But I think I came to view her work the way I do because of how I myself work with words. But maybe it is also due to how I became acquainted with her texts—her words spoke to me in a peculiar way; they attacked me like a mob and I felt like an innocent bystander. Her lines penetrated into my perception. And this encounter made it clear to me that the words she chooses to write are viable. […]

Susanne Dorendorff has owned her own atelier since May 1985. In December of that same year she decided to devote all of her time to writing.

In our electronic age, handwriting has fallen victim to the matrix raster. We are in dire need of an antithesis. We need handwriting more than ever and I believe that Susanne Dorendorff has what it takes to play the adversary.

Philipp Luidl is a lecturer of typography at the Academy of Graphic Art in Munich, Germany and a board member of the Munich Typographic Society

brush and inks because of the word. More than once it may happen that her texts are elusively shy. Then she rejects the idea of setting traps from them. They have to sip the ink out of her hand. This atmosphere of trust is a prerequisite of her work. It demands not only a feeling for the medium and its materials, but also a good measure of patience. “At the beginning I felt the way that the script manipulated me,” admits Susanne Dorendorff. “Now I feel how I manipulate it.”

She wanted to know how I arrived at my judgement of her work. And I couldn’t immediately answer her. Perhaps through my own involvement with the word. Perhaps through that first encounter with her texts – that spoke to me in a strange way, that fell upon me like a mob engulfing the unaware. Her lines bit into my consciousness. And out of this encounter arose in me the certainty that the texts she has chosen are capable of survival.

It is precisely in this electronic age in which the written word is becoming a helpless victim of the matrix raster that we need the antithesis of the hand more than ever. I believe that Susanne Dorendorff has not only the ability, but also the strength to play this adversary.

Philipp Luidl is a lecturer of typography at the Academy of Graphic Art in Munich, Germany and a board member of the Munich Typographic Society.