Rammellzee was an American street and performance artist, sculptor, writer, and hip-hop musician, famous for his Wild Style tag work that can be found all over the East Village in New
York City. Rammellzee’s graffiti style, which is dynamic and vibrant, was created by a group of like-minded people in the 1980s and it is based on the illegible writing resembling the Gothic script. Rammellzee is also widely known for his performances and wearing extremely elaborate Samurai-like masks and costumes. During his short lifetime, he had many shows alongside with the eminent names such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Futura.
Rammellzee was born in Far Rockaway, New
York and just like many other urban kids of his age, he started painting graffiti on New York City subway cars already in his early teenage years and he has also shown a strong interest in the alphabet writing system. Intrigued by the power of language, he started to develop and explore potential new features of letters – he wanted
to use them as weapons or in mathematical formulas. In 1979, when he was just 19 years old, the he wrote a manifesto called Iconic Treatise on Gothic Futurism, in which he claimed that letters, after being separated from their main function, are weapons that can be used to
fight the oppression imposed by the linguistic systems. Rammellzee felt that if you control the language, you control the discourse, you control the power, claimed Henry Chalfant, an American photographer, videographer and avid follower of graffiti and hip-hop scene, who met Rammellzee sometimes in the early 80s and became curious about his artworks and manifesto.
Even though the aesthetics behind Rammellzee’s works seems inspired by science fiction, the he claimed there’s a strong connection between the secret script of the 16th-century monks
and his own vibrant, imaginative alphabet. His pseudonym has an interesting origin as well – he stated that it is a quite complex word, derived from RAM plus M for Magnitude, E (Greek sigma) for the first summation operator, first L for longitude, second L for latitude, Z for z-bar, and again E (or sigma) for summation. Rammellzee’s work has contributed to the literary and cultural movement of Afrofuturism because he was often describing the human language as a means
of technological war. It is well-known that one
of the main topics in Afrofuturistic materials
is the use of language in order to transcend
the digital divide, which is an economic and social inequality caused by the impact of communication technologies. While it is true
that Rammellzee’s work has been constantly associated with Afrofuturism, Rammellzee himself had stated there is no such thing as Afrofuturism. He considered his work as a part of the European medieval monk tradition. When it comes to his theory of Gothic Futurism, it was geared towards the deconstruction of English language and using its parts as a means of liberation and challenging the accepted standards of the typical alphabet.