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atelier d’alves’ artist book ‘A Garden at Night’ explores human experience, landscape and trauma

Taking place at RAMPA in Porto, Tiago Madaleno’s ‘A Garden at Night’ explores the relationship between the human body and landscape through the lens of trauma. An exciting, ethereal and interactive show, Madaleno begins with reference to German artist Kurt Schwitters whose experience of neighbouring children destroying his garden as a child led him to be bed-ridden for two years following an epileptic crisis. 

Approached to create the accompanying artist book for the exhibition, Porto-based design studio atelier d’alves took the helm, producing a beautiful and conceptual book that, much like the exhibition itself, is divided into two paths. In this form of a concertina, the book’s first half includes written text from authors Allen S. Weiss, Pedro Pousada and Nancy Perloff, as well as Madaleno himself, with the second part consisting of a series of illustrations and poems printed onto a mirror paper to suggest a sense of “reflection, montage and perception,” as explained by atelier d’alves’ art director Sergio Alves.

In conversation with Alves, he remarks how this dichotomy was the central driving concept behind the project, telling us “the book invokes the idea of the wanderer, so familiar to the philosophy behind the English garden,” adding “to reenact this dialogue between body and landscape.” Through the exhibition, the reader becomes the wanderer as the lights of the exhibition interact with the ink of the book. “The exhibition had a 25 minutes cycle. 10 minutes in light, 15 minutes in the dark,” Alves explains, “the light changes influenced the perception of a series of texts that were painted on the wall with photoluminescent ink,” therefore when the light is on the texts are almost invisible. “That phenomenon, almost magical, mysterious,” Alves tells us “invites the body and the eye to rediscover the place after the light went off.” This experience also directly relates to their choice of colours; using only black, green and silver throughout.

Following the binary theme throughout the project, the book only houses two typefaces; Stellage and Bickham Script, with the former portraying the more pastoral role reminiscent of botanical textbooks and modernist sensibilities while Bickham is used rather poetically. “Bickham Script was used in the back of the accordion folio in the poetic sentences approaching Schwitters’ spasmodic dance,” Alves explains, “its design recalls the context of baroque choreography and its dancing notation.”

Typefaces: Stellage by Soft Machine Typefaces /  Bickham Script by Richard Lipton

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