Rae Stern: In Fugue

by Dan Saal

I have seen first-hand the amount of surprise, wonder, and joy a person experiences when they first encounter Rae Stern’s interactive art installation, In Fugue. At the core of the experience, when you touch the silky white porcelain teaware, a magical inner glow appears on the surface, exposing a hidden image that quickly fades away. Silent and unassuming at first glance, these objects become precious when your touch brings to light the hidden memories. Creating a publication to document the exhibition needed to recreate the same conceptual experience—but how?

In the exhibition at Belger Arts, Stern debuted two corresponding bodies of work named Outside Time and Hypomnemata. Both of these installations reveal imagery through the use of light. Outside Time presents dozens of porcelain objects that upon touch light up from within, exposing hidden lithophanes. In Hypomnemata, she manipulated the thickness of the pulp in large sheets of handmade paper so images are revealed on the surface when light shines through the thinner parts of the pulp.

Collaborating with the artist we wanted to create a design for the cover that would not only reveal imagery through light, but also be activated by the reader themselves. Utilizing a die cut cover with a translucent dust jacket we were able to hide the portrait of Stern’s muse, an anonymous girl, only to be revealed when the reader opened the cover and the light came through the die cut. The translucent paper was also silky smooth and resembled the soft sensation of the hand sanded porcelain objects.

The lighting of the time-based artwork appeared in select places throughout the book where we placed successive images of the same scene on following pages—the first showing the porcelain object unlit, and the second with the image glowing from within. The turning of the page...


Gold in Book Design 2022, Freelancer

Created by:


Dan Saal


Rae Stern and Belger Arts

Video (direct link)

click here



Rae Stern, US