Inna Kochkina: One Shape of the Language: Cyrillic Archives

‘One Shape of the Language: Cyrillic Archives’ is an artist’s book documenting Inna Kochkina’s research into the history, style, and politics of traditional Cyrillic.

This research was born from Kochkina’s self-reflective curiosity about the relationship between cultural heritage and typography and evolved into an examination of the socio-political role of traditional Cyrillic. An ancient script, Cyrillic has been used to express various forms of cultural and territorial domination and continues to serve as an imperialist tool, having long been deployed in support of Slavic nationalism both in Russia and in the former USSR territories. 

This publication is the result of Kochkina’s own research into and engagement with archives of typography, as well as conversations with anti-colonial activists, artists, and historians who interrogate traditional Cyrillic and its relationship to colonial power. 

Alongside conducting scholarly research, Kochkina also produced drawings in response to archives of traditional Cyrillic. Making these drawings constituted a form of “studying by making.” With these efforts she has sought to construct an anti-colonial feminist narrative, employing both typographic artifacts and ‘patriarchal’ letterforms.

To make her drawings, Kochkina took samples from these low quality typographic archives, enlarging and transforming them into unexpected graphic shapes that were then recorded in a series of experimental prints. The drawing, collating and contact printing process that she followed allowed her to document and reveal the qualities lent to historical artifacts by digital noise. Through this working method she sought to rethink both the subject of her work as well as traditional approaches to type design practice.

This book presents the prints in a roughly chronological sequence, poetically portraying Kochkina’s complex relationship with her native script. Variously precise, messy, and destructive, these works ultimately convey a series of “imaginary” shapes through which to reinterpret traditional Cyrillic of the past and present.