Abra: A Living text

A free iOS app and a limited-edition artist’s book

Abra: A Living Text exists simultaneously as a free iOs app and a limited-edition artist’s book printed with heat-sensitive ink and other features that animate the page, both of which take the same text as their starting point and play with its material form in new and exciting ways. Blurring the boundaries between the page and tablet as touchscreen interfaces, Abra encourages readers to see the book as an ever-changing form whose mutation they can participate in.

The recipient of an NEA-funded Expanded Artists’ Books Grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, Abra is an exploration and celebration of the potentials of the book in the 21st century. In the free app, touch words and watch them shift under your fingers. Cast spells to mutate the text — abracadabra — and set it in motion. Write your own words and see them become part of Abra’s vocabulary. Read, write, and experiment to discover Abra’s secrets and make her poems your own.

The iPad isn’t the only touchscreen interface for reading Abra — the artists’ book invites readers to touch and interact with the text through blind letterpress impressions that evoke cuneiform printing, gold initials and wide margins that evoke manuscript illumination, thermochromic ink that disappears with the heat of your hands or breath, and laser-cut openings that reveal the book as an interface with both depth and surface. The two can be read separately or together, with the iPad inserted into a well in the back of the book.

In the trade edition, forthcoming this winter from 1913 Press, Abra animates across the page, poems and drawings growing and mutating as the reader flips through. Hearkening back to our earliest modes of cinema, it creates a different reading experience where text and image merge.

A collaboration between Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Durbin, Ian Hatcher, and a potentially infinite number of readers, Abra refuses to stay on the page. This living text adapts to its reader, providing a magic spellbook that melds high and low-tech and considers the history and future of the book.

Find out more, here.

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