Between Page and Screen is an “augmented” artist’s book that tells the love story of two individuals through eight letters and supplementary animated texts that are interspersed throughout the letters. To read the “book,” the user must hold up an open page to the webcam until the browser decodes the fiducial marker on the printed page and displays the poem or animation in a uncanny, simulated space shown on the screen but appearing to be floating above the page (see screenshot). The uneasy relationship of print and electronic media is thus personified as a tense epistolary romance, and the temperamental difference between lovers in the story also communicates the ontological difference between media. The instability of both a romance and a mediated reality is conveyed through the very process of reading the story.
The story told in the letters presents “P” as the partner in the relationship seeking to “pin” or “join” or “stake a claim”—in other words, to stabilize or define or unify them—while “S” makes a plea for “division” and “partition.” The letters are composed in a pun- and rhyme-filled, staccato prose poetry, and this verbal duel between the lovers is punctuated by animated screens that continue the linguistic transformations, as in the rotating column of text, PAWL-PEEL-POLE-PALE (see screenshot), which signifies the aggression the lovers both own to, even if Page wishes to make peace: “I didn’t mean to impale you with my pin.” Their struggle over the meaning of the relationship is mirrored in the linguistic transformations programmed into the text. Etymology thus becomes another metaphor for a mediated, collaborative sense of reality, like the romantic coupling and the page/screen binary, because the transformation of words through time violates the borders between languages—threatening the collapse of meaning—but also revitalizes language(s) in that very crossing. One interjected animation, wherein words scroll across the augmented space, encapsulates this playful, almost Derridean, sense of difference at issue:
between . . . page . . . and . . . screen . . . a . . . book . . . spx . . . in . . . bks . . . dna . . . is . . . rose . . . eros . . . by . . . ano . . . ther . . . nom . . . so . . . po . . . ems . . . grow . . . to . . . face . . . lght . . . zero . . . s . . . bit . . . by . . . byte . . . know . . . all . . . abt . . . amat . . . say . . . bmy . . . luv . . . baby . . . pls . . . o . . . you . . . chic . . . zeus . . . one . . . two . . . any . . . amt . . . wll . . . do . . . amen . . . mmm . . . open . . . dor . . . nto . . . an . . . otr . . . room!
This AR text does indeed speak in a DNA that is essentially transformative—is rose eros by another name?—as its embodiment only takes place in the collaboration of page and screen and reader. If the nature of the Page is to “fasten,” the progress of the narrative seems to favor the Screen, as S’s penultimate letter complains of the limitations Page would impose: “Page, don’t cage me. Why this mania to name what’s between us? That way is carnage, carnal carnival. We share text’s fleshy network--your trellis and my tendency to excoriate, your fang and my carnassials. We like leather. You have ivy, I’ve a bouquet of charnel carnations, carrion incarnate. Don’t shoot the currier, ace. You’re cute awry.” Of course what’s between them is the relationship itself as it is embodied in the reader’s performance of the book-machine. However, its fate is left indeterminate in the last letters. Page ends with a plea that accepts the fact that borders will be transgressed—“Be my apport? What/ are boundaries anyway?”—while Screen laments that “We’re running out/ of words” and ends with the perfunctory “Don’t forget/ to write.” The last, melancholy augmented reality that appears is a P.S. that “is no postscript,” but rather a kinetic litter of Ps and Ss raining down (see screenshot).