THE ART OF READING – From William Kentridge To Wikipedia at Museum Meermanno, The Hague.

Like a Pearl in my Hand (2016) by Carina Hesper

Ever thought about how you read? What takes place? What reading involves? The small exhibition The Art of Reading – from William Kentridge to Wikipedia focuses on just a few steps in the process of reading. It shows twenty modern works of art, all related to the art of reading.

This exhibition is a joint venture between the Dutch National Library and Museum Meermanno. Library and museum regularly work together. They aim to increase and promote the love of books and reading, through their new ‘House of the Book’ initiative. This exhibition is the first of many joint projects.

The official opening and preview took place at the The Hague Public Library’s main location Friday 17th of November 2017. Three works of art are on show at this location. A seductive introduction to the rest of this wonderful exhibition.

At the exhibition opening at The Hague Public Library’s main location 17th of November physicist and author Mark Mieras explained what takes place in a human’s brain during the act – or ‘art’ of reading. Reading does not come naturally; it is a taught process. It was fascinating to learn what it involves. Some of the aspects can be found in the exhibition.

Curator Paul van Capelleveen explained the exhibition is divided over six rooms. Each room focuses on one aspect like recognition, reproduction, touching. The rooms are all on the museum’s ground floor.

All works are modern and practically all are installations. They invite visitors to interact, touch, swipe, read. Some familiarity with a Kindle or tablet helps.

Children cannot just experiment with Braille. They can smell and taste books in the Book Lab. White coats, materials, examples are provided.

The printed version of the Dutch Wikipedia impressed me. Handy when your tablet’s battery is flat? Ummm; it does cover several walls. No need to ask: grab a volume and start reading at the table. Or dip into one of the other special books here.

The Wiki print-out made me laugh, as did a few other works. There are also a few serious ones. What to think about an artist burning the names of long-forgotten African soldiers onto his skin? Visitors can learn their names by ‘touching the artist’s skin’ on a screen.

My favourite work? Like a Pearl in my Hand (2016) by Carina Hesper moved me deeply. She took photos of blind Chinese children.

By slowly wiping the black squares with the palm of your hand, your palm’s warmth will let their faces appear. Once they appear stop wiping. You will see the image slowly disappear.

No better way to show, these children are outcasts. Do not forget to read the story behind this work of art, to the left of the photos. It is printed in white letters on black paper.

The exhibition continues until the 4th of March 2018. When visiting on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, don’t forget to take part in the workshops of printing or writing with a quill.   Kate Den    19th November 2017