The World Set Free is an adaptation of the H. G. Wells classic, reinvented by the artist Fabian Reimann in a new publication which he describes as “a book in a series of books about books”. Originally published in 1913 by the visionary Wells, the book predicted nuclear warfare years before research into the weapon went underway. The prophetic story foresaw the mass-scale devastation in Second World War Japan and even uses the term “atomic bomb” to describe the desolation of radiation, far before the bomb went under development.
In this new publication, Fabian creates a body of engaging imagery to go alongside Wells’ text and recreates the fateful text into a visual essay for today’s politically-charged times. Not only did the original dystopia created by Wells anticipate nuclear bombs, there are also hints to the progression of gender equality, English as the international second language and the redundancy of money in the traditional sense; all poignant topics of conversation amidst the rapidly changing times of today.
The black and white publication provides a cohesive sense of flow and the monochrome aesthetic appropriately pays head to the sense of doom throughout the narrative. “Everything flows as one stream”, Fabian tells It’s Nice That. The artist adds, “another thing is that the book becomes cheaper to print in black and white and I like books to be affordable as a democratic way to share thoughts.”
Visual and spatial essays play a significant part of Fabian’s artist practice. Despite working on many publications, he says, “I wouldn’t describe myself as a designer”. Predominantly interested in the relationship between the visual world and the invisible, as well as the intersection between art and nuclear science, Fabian’s work fundamentally investigates how history is being told and differing ways in which the future and the past can be viewed through print.
The visual essay’s design sympathetically conveys tones of desolation and morbidity that underline The World Set Free. The images explore the Warburg Universe through Fabian’s interpretation of the text, “slicing and scanning” associating images which results in collaged pages that overlap different time periods. Consequently, the visual essay feels timeless with its historical references as well as its expression of futuristic ideals; the publication has a sense of universality through its low-fi aesthetic. Fabian adds, “I did so much interpretation by the image that there would have been no meaning in experimenting with the type”. The typesetting in the introduction and cover pay tribute to their original form by Mark Von Shlegell, purposefully kept by Fabian which gives the viewer a sense of the first editions that go back to the time of H. G. Wells. Throughout the publication, the ubiquitous serif further enhances the viewing experience that harks back to old publications with justified text and capitalised headers. The text is simply placed within the composition’s spread, appropriately clashing with the provocative images in this highly relevant visual essay.
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