Episodes from the History of Reading

The Reading Wall is composed of three massive sixteen-foot-long walls that cut across the center of the exhibition space. Stretched along each wall is a dense, colorful, printed collage of statements about the history of reading. Mounted on a roller track on each wall is a large, flat-screened, color plasma display that can be moved back and forth along the length of each wall. The display rolls directly over the printed collage. As the monitor moves, it presents an electronic layer of information about key episodes in the history of reading.

What's it about? Episodes from the History of Reading presents in a very physical manner the history of reading and writing over the past 25,000 years. The size of the exhibit is intended to show, in a dramatic way, the long history of reading. The printed collage on the wall is a modern and expressive exercise in typographic design. The digital layer presents colorful photos, images and additional information keyed precisely to the fixed layer below it.

What's the experiment? In this exhibit RED set out to explore the possibilities of epigraphic (wall) writing for presenting complex information. In particular RED was interested in laying out "temporal" information across "physical" space. RED was also interested in playing with the tension of public reading (everyone can see the big wall) with private reading (the moving lens is operated by a single visitor). Lastly, RED was interested in exploring the interplay between fixed printing and dynamic digital words.

How does it work? The printed collage was laid out in Adobe Illustrator using a wide range of fonts and printed using a Xerox large format printer. The dynamic layer shown on the moving monitor was constructed in Macromedia Director, an animation program. A special rotary sensor is attached to the top of the monitor that tells the computer exactly where it is along the wall as it moves. This information is sent to the Director program that uses it to determine what to display on the monitor.