Abra

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Abra is an exploration and celebration of the potentials of the book in the 21st century. A collaboration between Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Durbin, Ian Hatcher, and a potentially infinite number of readers, the project merges physical and digital media, integrating a hand-made artist's book with an iPad app to play with the notion of the “illuminated” manuscript and let readers "hold the light" of language. In the artist’s book, the poems grow and mutate as the reader turns the pages, blurring the boundary between text and illumination, marginalia and body. Animating across the surface, the poems coalesce and disperse in an ecstatic helix of words, taking turns "illuminating" one another's margins and interstices.They play with the mutation of language, both by forming new portmanteaus and conjoined phrases, and also through references to fecundity as it manifests in the natural world, the body, human history, popular culture, decorative arts, and architecture, placing the shifting evolution and continuous overlap of all these spheres in dialogue with the ever-changing technology of the book. The iPad version of Abra, which provides a physical backdrop for the artist's book into which it is inserted, extends and revels in this ephemerality, putting special emphasis on interactivity to highlight the role of the reader. The poems spring to life onscreen: not only do they conjoin and separate, with a swipe of his or her finger, readers may join the collaboration and mutate the text further, creating new juxtapositions and surprising turns of phrase. Their texts provide scores for potential performances of the work, making Abra function much like the magic word of its origin–abracadabra–as an unpredictable living text. We are interested in both exhibiting the hybrid artist's book / iPad app and performing from the work. We would also be happy to give a presentation, if that is of interest. While the project is a collaboration between 3 people, only Amaranth and Ian are applying to present it. We both plan to attend the conference and are especially interested in the opportunity to expand the performative possibilities of the text, which to date has been performed by Kate and Amaranth in conjoined costume. Abra is being produced under an Expanded Artists’ Books Grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. The project will launch this spring. For exhibition, our piece requires an iPad running iOS7 and a podium. We can provide the artist's book. For performance, we can provide iPads and adapters. Amaranth Borsuk's books include Between Page and Screen and Handiwork. She teaches at the University of Washington, Bothell. Kate Durbin's books include The Ravenous Audience and E! Entertainment, among others. She teaches at Whitter College. Ian Hatcher is a text/sound artist and programmer living in New York.

(Source: Author's abstract)

This piece won the 2017 Turn on Literature Prize.

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Thor Baukhol Madsen