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The book that reveals itself through touch

To You is a book that hides its intimate content until the reader establishes a connection by touching its pages to reveal the words.

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The book reveals its contents when exposed to heat

Written and conceived by Yiota Demetriou, To You on first glance appears to be a book full of black-inked pages. When exposed to the warmth of the human touch, the ink becomes transparent and reveals intimate, unsent letters by the author.

Demetriou describes herself as a multimedia artist, academic and writer, but most of all she regards herself as a human scientist, interested in people’s stories and how they are told.

“The content of the book, as it started, was my own letters,” she explains. “When a friend saw them and really encouraged me to take them out into the world, I started to restructure them and layer them and take any personal content out.”

After consulting with peers and editing the content until it was a more reflective text for a wider audience, Demetriou began thinking about how people were going to connect with it and discovered thermochromic ink.

Those who purchase a book receive a copy in a hand-packed letterbox, with a note from the author on how to care for it

“Within my work as a scholar, I’m lucky to be exposed to all these different forms and I’m really curious,” she says. “I played and experimented with lots of things, and so I thought, what about using a special effects ink? I came across [thermochromic ink] from batteries and thermometers, I saw that and explored how it could be used differently.”

Because of the personal nature of the letters, Demetriou wanted to reflect that in its form. “It was really important to me that the words in the book took a human manifestation to them. I wanted the content to reflect the form, and vice versa,” she explains.

“Because the content is so personal and it’s about vulnerability and emotion, there’s almost this inherent shamefulness in being exposed. I thought, what if the book has a similar effect where, in order to show its vulnerability and expose its secrets, it needs that attention from the reader - that effort, that labour of devotion to the words - so they can be revealed.”

Demetriou approached a number of printers around the country, but most turned her down because of the nature of the project.

What I’ve done is innovative in many ways, where the text takes the body form, but this ink isn’t new and it isn’t really used for books

“What I’ve done is innovative in many ways, where the text takes the body form, but this ink isn’t new and it isn’t really used for books because it’s very expensive, it’s specialised and its mostly used for marketing purposes,” she explains. Many printers did not have the ink or would not take on such a short-run of books.

By working with collaborator Tom Abba from the University of the West of England, Demetriou found a printer local to Bristol which specialised in producing short-run, artists’ books.

She adds: "I understand as an artist I can be enthusiastic and over the top and I want things that might not be workable, but it’s my goal to make them work.

"Another person who’s more realistic, can turn around say no, that won’t work, but what about this? It was really difficult overcoming those challenges, but it was a milestone in a way and I’m really grateful to the people I worked with [on this project]."

The concertina-folded A5 book was first launched in Cyprus, where Demetriou grew up, at the Bluchip Gallery, where it garnered significant national publicity. The Bristol launch took place at the Arnolfini on Thursday, August 1st where visitors placed pre-orders for the book – a first for the Arnolfini bookshop.

A limited run of 150 copies of To You are available to purchase through either galleries or via the book’s website, with the first copy being sold to the Bavarian State Library for its rare book collection.

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