Brain Pickings

Between Page and Screen: A Digital Pop-Up Book about Love


What an alphabetical romance has to do with the poetics of geometry and the heart of storytelling.

Pop-up books, with their architectural whimsy and transfixing tactility, are on the bleeding front lines of the analog-to-digital shift as we contemplate the tradeoffs of what is lost as we gain the convenience and mutability of digital text. But this needn’t be the case. From poet-developer duo Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse, and Siglio Press, comes Between Page and Screen — a remarkable “digital pop-up book” that tells the love story of the letters P and S through minimalist, wordless black-and-white geometric patterns that spring to life and summon the text when looked at through a webcam. You suddenly see yourself projected on the screen, holding in your hands the paper pages from which the living language of digital text unfolds into the story. And what a story it is — full of wordplay and innuendo, the narrative flows with equal parts humor and poetic sophistication as words morph into one another with your every movement, a visceral metaphor for the longing of the two alphabetical lovers.

At once contrasting and complementing the augmented reality technology is an exquisite original book, letterpress-printed and hand-bound on fine press paper. What emerges is a beautiful meditation on where the heart of a book really resides — in the medium, be that page or screen, or in the reader’s experience and imagination.

It might be tempting to dismiss augmented reality as a gimmick — because anyone who’s been living on this side of the digital divide has seen her share of gimmicky AR — but in Between Page and Screen, it becomes a poetic device, seeking to reignite in us grown-ups that giddy excitement we once felt as we opened our very first childhood pop-up book. On a deeper level, it’s a meditation on duality — page and screen, object and subject, materiality and ephemerality, the stern, black-and-white rigidity of the geometric shapes and the soft fluidity of love.

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