'These Pages Fall Like Ash': Art Project Combines Digital Books And Exploration To Reinvent The Interactive Novel


A unique new art project is aiming to combine physical reading, real-world exploration and digital books.

'These Pages Fall Like Ash' is described as a "first of its kind narrative experience", and promises to let readers (or is it actors? or players?) "discover a whole new way of reading".

The project will see its audience use a physical, hand-made book and their mobile phones to traverse the city of Bristol in order to find digital texts hidden on 'hard drives' in different locations.

Running from 20 April to 8 May, the story will slowly unfold for the players as they take time to walk about the town, and read the strange story as it emerges in four stages.

The authors say all the information will be within 1.5 miles of the city centre, but are keeping exactly how everything fits together under wraps.

The pitch reads:

"The story is about a moment when two cities overlap. They exist in the same space and time, but they aren't aware of each other. It's a tale about two people who have become separated, one in each world, about their fading memory of each other and their struggle to reconnect. One of the cities is your own; you become part of the narrative as you travel, moving from place to place. Your version of the story becomes about you and your place in your own city: what would you hold on to? What would you fight to remember?"

While the exact mechanisms of the project are deliberately somewhat underwraps, the aim is clearly to somehow 'unite' the digital and the physical.

"We've tried to keep this as simple as possible though, and to recognise that reading is a very specific activity," said Tom Abba, a resident of the Pervasive Media Studio and the co-creator of the project with artist collective Circumstance.

"We're adding a technical layer to the storytelling in the shape of wireless, non-networked drives (they're not connected to anything other than your phone or tablet - no Facebook, no Twitter feeds interrupting the storytelling) distributed across the city.

"You'll find them because you'll have a book, and what's on them will make sense because you have a book. The book will make sense of, and be clarified itself, by the digital content. The two mediums behave interdependently."

With 'input' from Neil Gaiman and Nick Harkaway, the project has a real pedigree - and it's certainly an intriguing idea - sort of like Zombies Run! meets the video game Journey.

Tickets for the experience are £12 for anyone in Bristol, and you can pick up your book any time from the 18th of April.

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