Westminster Reference Library, London
Described as a ‘treasure hunt’ through a library, Marie Klimis’ The Paper Traveller is an individual, immersive experience which combines storytelling with handcrafted pop-up books, intimate sound design and a hint of live theatre performance.
The individual viewer (listener? participant?) is transformed into a ‘book traveller’, armed with the tools necessary to make books literally tell their tales: headphones, a ‘travelling stick’ (an aesthetically pleasing solution to the fiddling on and off switches), a gleefully tiny library map and some white gloves. The traveller is left to find their way around the beautiful pop-up books situated around the library, guided by coloured numbered lanterns and written clues, with stories told through audio devices concealed inside each book.
What sounds a complicated process proved simple to follow in practice, and by the second instalment involved little thought. Each section of the story, set to music by Andrey Novikov to great effect, was perfectly timed to encourage interaction with the book as an art object and to take in the apt surroundings. The performance under review was hosted by Westminster Reference Library and was adapted from versions set in other public libraries around London. It was set sensitively into its surroundings, with regular library users seemingly unperturbed by the travellers in their midst. In a particularly evocative ending, the traveller’s control is taken away via a blindfold, at which point the words and music alone build to a powerful climax.
While the message of the power of books to stimulate the imagination is not new, The Paper Traveller found an effective way to demonstrate that message through its ingenious format and the way in which it embraced its library location. It was not only engaging and thought-provoking, but thoroughly enjoyable. Though at times the strength of the concept may have been at the cost of a powerful narrative, it is an experience not to be missed.