Despite the apparent similarities between one city skyline and the next, there is always a sense of alienation that hits an outsider while traversing the alleyways and piazzas of a foreign metropolis. Cultural differences, and in particular differences in language, often prove to be isolating factors in trans-Atlantic travel. Lisa Rienermann’s “Type the Sky” is an ingenious take on this very phenomenon, creating a highly original work that illustrates the desire for connection in an unfamiliar landscape.
The project of Rienermann’s “Type the Sky” is one of verbal communication. Using the negative space created by the silhouettes of New York City’s skyscrapers, apartment complexes, and other buildings, the Berlin-native has managed to recreate the English alphabet, making it possible to write messages from the merging of matter and space.
While this does manage to initiate a conversation between the traveler and the culture that she visits, it doesn’t shy from presenting the isolated point of view of an outsider, adding a tinge of melancholy to the series. Undeniably, Rienermann’s pictures create a sense of claustrophobia, of being swallowed by the towering buildings of New York City. As anyone who has traveled to an unfamiliar city knows, the experience is often one that can leave a visitor feeling invisible – so unacquainted with the culture around them, that they’ve been pushed to nonexistence. This is particularly apparent in one of the messages that Rienermann compiled, which reads “Will you look at me?” Here, she seems to be yearning for confirmation in a city that is so famously and perpetually preoccupied.
Still, the overall tone of Rienermann’s typography is one of generality. Through her recreation of the English alphabet, Rienermann has managed to duplicate the desire to make connections with the people who reside in the cities we visit, while also legitimately creating a way to do so. Though the specific city featured in the photographs is New York, and though the language she reproduces is English, there is an undeniable universality in “Type the Sky.” The messages she creates, after all, are done so using the same blue atmosphere and wispy white clouds that are seen against the silhouettes of every city on Earth.