The Adventures of a Village would probably be considered a real page-turner, except for the fact that it doesn’t have any pages. At least, not in the traditional sense. Rather, Julie Stephen Chheng’s creation is an illustrated choose-your-own adventure that’s part story, part game—all origami.
Users fold and unfold different sections of the book, and by doing so, unlock new aspects of the narrative. Folding the image of train tracks through a village one way and reveals that the path ends near a calm seashore, folding it another way, though, conjures tentacles from some sort of sea monster wreaking havoc on the shore. It’s a mutable celebration of imagination that’s always one gorgeous step ahead of you, and challenges the strictures of what defines a book.
"The book as an object is an incredible invention, a beautiful design and something functional with its own rules," Chheng says. "In experimenting with this object, I became interested in the interactivity of the page, and of notions of mixed graphics and narratives that the reader can choose from. The folding technique is a very simple concept but according to the information that we give it—the rules of the game—it can convey a lot of things about time passing and the space one uses."
The author comes from a family based in both cinema and architecture, so it’s only natural that she embraced origami, a concept combining movement and space. "Origami is for me the poetic aspect of folding, and several universes superimposed over each other," she says. "In many ways, making images in 3-D results in illustrations becoming fluid in movement by the process of folding."
Chheng first learned origami as a student at the Arts Decoratifs Schools of Paris, working within the Printed Image concentration. Eventually, Chheng earned her graduate diploma with 10 different folding paper projects. She went on to first experiment with interactive books with Poemes en Pieces, a book that allows readers to assemble a story from cut-out sections.
The idea for the new book came as she was finishing an apprenticeship at experimental publishing house Les Editions Volumiques. Founder Etienne Mineur showed her an artist's book from Brazil with folded pages one day, and Chheng quickly became enchanted. Upon finding an exploratory embrace of unusual ideas from Mineur and the rest of the staff, the book came together rather quickly, only three months to go from prototype, to fully designed book.
After figuring out the intricate puzzle of publishing such a book, the onus is now on the reader to figure out how to read it. Have a look at some explanatory GIFs in the slides above.