This attractive, informal artist publication is not only a catalogue of the work of Timo Demollin during the exhibition In the Presence of Absence in Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum – it is also an integral part of this work. Old prints of views of the colonial world exhibition of 1883 are related to the Stedelijk’s current collection through a timeline in the physical building today and a spatial, in situ recreation of the locations of the pavilions from back then.
At first glance, this publication looks complex, but its structure is extremely simple. The past is made concretely visible through a graphical translation of the theme: text and images have been separated, with the illustrated pages being given a subtle ‘ghost layer’ of text in opaque white. Conversely, the text pages received a similar image layer. This overprinting literally superimposes the layers of history over one another – a great graphical way of reflecting on the topic. Another exciting element is the exceptional binding – the sections containing historical images are not trimmed along the top edge.
As the text explicitly runs in strips, the reading experience may not be equally pleasant for all, but we must immediately qualify this with: it is fantastically set in the never dull Grotesque. It has been said that this is a sure-fire way to pick up a Best Dutch Book Design, but of course you have to use it in a good way. Notwithstanding the device with the opaque white layers, the text is always legible. Another nice touch is that the cover folded in the American style is not really a dust jacket, but thanks to the Otabind® binding gives exactly the same pleasant, light feel when leafing through, meaning that – in spite of the heaviness of the theme – we are encouraged to want to delve further into this history.