Performing the Past
With each turning of a folio, viewers can simulate an interaction with a contemporary art object unique to their time and place. In this experience there is a desire to know and access a period in history. More than simply looking, holding and leafing through a well-crafted facsimile permits a reperformance of an original use of the book replicated. Like their originals, facsimiles are removed from their cases, propped on stands, unclasped or unbuckled to reveal the contents inside. Facsimiles to-scale can recreate the precarious nature of using miniature books or the cumbersome maneuvering of expansive folios, as can be readily experienced when turning the oversize folios of the Italian antiphonal facsimile.
The Exultet Roll facsimile is installed in a mechanized display case that both preserves the replica, but also simulates, when activated, the descent of the original roll as it was slowly unrolled before its audience. With each turn, the facsimile reveals images to the viewer with the related text oriented upside-down because the original scroll would have been lowered over a pulpit while a preacher read the text from the other side. Seeing photographs of such a remarkable object fails to convey the performative experience of the roll. Similarly dependent upon its hand-held use is the tiny Dutch songbook. Made to fit in a pocket, this manuscript was meant to be carried. Subtle details, like the faithfully replicated gold embellishments that flicker in the light assist, contemporary facsimile users to simulate the experience of using the book—not just looking at it. Through this facsimile we can touch, hear, and absorb the complete object.