“Softies” and “MUDs” by David Jhave Johnston


Screen capture from “Softies” and “MUDS” by David Jhave Johnston. Completely white picture with, what it seems to be the beginning of a sketch or drawing. There are only two lines forming one corner of what it seems to be a portrait. The inner line goes all the way down to the corner below, but the line that is supposed to represent the borders of the portrait are only drawn halfway. Text: There is no text on this picture.
Open Softies and MUDS by David Jhave Johnston

In the Spring of 2009, Jhave was experimenting with two digital tools that allowed him to manipulate typography in different ways: Mudbox and Mr. Softie. He had first experimented with Mudbox in the Fall of 2008 when he was producing the Soundseeker sketches, and produced 7 more pieces compiled under the title MUDs. At the same time, his typographical experimentation with Mr. Softie resulted in 7 short pieces published as Softies. These works extend Jhave’s fascination with the physicality of language particularly when embedded within videos.

“stand under” is a video of soft, elastic, elongated concrete poem built on the lexical components of the word “understanding” to highlight their positionality (for lack of a better word). In this poem, words stand on and under other words, and the relation between them is evident from the stretching, wobbling, and near-collapse of the stack of letters. Traditional print poetry, visually formatted as a stack of lines of text, are structures of seemingly weightless materials, anchored to their position on the page. With this poem, Jhave leads us to think about the cognitive weight of words and the sheer mass they accumulate as they are stacked in lines to lead readers to an understanding.


With “Feel” he uses words transformed by both programs juxtaposed with a video of a man wearing different furs, hats, and wigs to cover his face to lead us to reflect on the texture of texts. What does typography feel like in digital media? With a typewriter, one can touch the letters on the typebar (see below) to feel its texture, but the digital letter is blank to the touch and lacks heft— hence Jhave’s tactile exploration in his graphical and linguistic texts.