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Museum visitors re-interpret classic books in Ross Phillips' new project

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Anyone else kind of bored by the book debate now? The one where someone says ebooks will kill off actual real life books because you can take loads on holiday easily, and then someone else says but they smell nice. Until someone has a new take on this I am banning it from being discussed (I may not have the power to do this but you never know).

Anyway there is still scope for some interesting creative explorations of the shifting dynamics between the written word and the person engaging with it. One such project is taking place at Bradford’s National Media Museum where Ross Phillips has set up Read Aloud, an interactive installation encouraging visitors to read out single lines from selected tomes (so far including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven).

The final pieces cannot help be re-interpretations of the authors’ words, with whoever is saying the line, and how they are saying it, adding a new, constantly shifting context.

“I wanted to produce something that talked about the collaborative nature of the internet as well as providing a space where the audience could be creative,” Ross told us. “I’d been reading a lot to my son, in various voices, and I was interested in the different rhythms and patterns that lots of people reading the same text would create. It was initially a lot more complex, with sound effects and selectable lines, but I have stripped it back to simply showing people the next line in the text and asking them to read it out aloud.

“The space is not policed and there is no moderation so I am happy for people to interpret this as they see fit. Another major part of the project is that all the data recorded will soon be freely accessible for people to download and create their own works which can then be featured on the site. As more books are read the possibilities for creative re-interpretations of this data grows beyond simple cutups, I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, people do.

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.