Rethinking A Book. The Illuminated Manuscript by David Small

It goes without saying that today plenty of people have changed books made of paper to digital files with the same content. Digital pocketbooks, iBooks and plenty of other electronic covers for literature have spread all over the developed world. Some people concerns simplicity and comfort of using, others claim on inevitable disappearance of paper publications. But there are few who started to think of combining the old and the new.

The Illuminated Manuscript installation

The Illuminated Manuscript installation

One of them is David Small, artist, designer and specialist in information and media technologies. He is a principal and founder of the Small Design Firm which produces and designs interactive information environments and typographic animation design. In 2002 David Small exhibited The Illuminated Manuscript project at the Documenta 11. It was not his first show since he does commercial activity and work as a businessmen. At the same time David Small keeps developing himself as an artist. Apart from the Documenta 11, he has taken part in exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou, and the Cooper-Hewitt.

The Ph.D. thesis by David Small is called “Rethinking the Book”. He upheld the dissertation in Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. To my opinion, this is the most right and definitely shortest definition or description of the installation he presented in Kassel, Germany.

The Illuminated Manuscript

The Illuminated Manuscript installation

The Illuminated Manuscript is an installation which consists of a large-scale (oversized) book in the center of the exhibition space. A data projector having been hung on the ceiling illuminated pages of the book as it was printing letters, words, and lines just in real time when a viewer was turning over the pages. Technically there is no miracle, a special chip was stitched into every page, and, thus, as the viewer flipped the page, the action fed back to the computer and to the display, the lines and strophes started to move along the page. Text and the story it tells began with the following letter of alphabet one by one, every page presented a certain kind of typography.

On the one hand, David Small probably wanted to show a new stage, level, new context of interaction of a person and a text, information having enriched a book surface with novel interface and designed typography. At the same time, the installation shows a sort of the next stage of development of the written text and word at the age of high digital technologies. We still continue writing but with some other tools and media. It does not mean that the word is getting poorer, vice versa, it follows its evolution.

Nastasia Rozhkova


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