Magic Books - the secret art of book hacking

What is a book? The commonly held notion is pretty simple: it is an object made of pieces of paper, glued or bounded together, with stuff written in it. Indisputable. But, maybe, there is more than meets the eye.

As a matter of fact, like most technological artifacts, a book can be hacked. By altering its structure and content, magical things can happen: volumes with movable parts, pages providing cinematic experiences, images appearing and disappearing, non-linear structures to predict the future, pop-up magic shows.

To such unusual enterprise is devoted "Magic Books", an interactive exhibition retracing the story of the secret art of book hacking, from Medieval times to our days. Hosted at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York the exhibition is a mindbending and playful tour of the possibilities unleashed by subverting the typical use of book, an unprecedented collection of design principles through which authors and publishers have activated magical powers out of plain paper.

The exhibition is designed and curated by Mariano Tomatis, Wonder Injector, writer, magician, who will himself kick it open on March Friday 13th with a lecture/show focused on the Italian influence of the art of book hacking - from the Venetian 17th century mind-reading books to Bruno Munari's magic shows on paper. To the topic of Magic Books Mariano has also dedicated his latest book, just published in Italy.

For all book lovers, designers and hackers this is something not to be missed, promising doses of wonder enfolded within the pages of books, still of one of the most groundbreaking (albeit simple) technologies ever invented.

Illustration: Angelo Monne