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Dutch “Book Ball” Uses Layar to Help Kick Off Boekenweek

Chris Cameron March 18, 2011

In the age of digital media where smartphones and tablets constantly fill our brains with rich media experiences, it is at times relaxing to escape the information overload with classic technology. Books!



And, boy, do the Dutch know how to show their appreciation for their literature. Starting with the inaugural event in 1932, the Netherlands has hosted Boekenweek, or “Book Week,” each March, with the exception of a few missed years early on. This celebration, which actually lasts 10 days, honors Dutch literature with a wide range of events, including book signings, galas and debates.



Since 1947, the festivities have been kicked off with the Boekenbal, or “Book Ball,” a highly coveted “Who’s Who” event for writers, publishers and famous Dutch people. A tradition among attendees of the Boekenbal is to steal a piece of art at the end of the night, and artists are asked to create works of art specifically for this purpose.



This year, one of the artists asked to contribute was Sander Veenhof, who you know from his augmented reality art projects like the Pentagon/White House Infiltr.AR and the Museum of Modern Art AR Exhibit. Veenhof created a virtual piece of art from the various pieces at the Stadsschouwburg, the venue for the Boekenbal. By using Layar, visitors could see the works and take a virtual piece home with them.



But the most remarkable piece of virtual art on display at the Boekenbal earlier this week was the tribute to the late Harry Mulisch, one of the most famous writers in the Netherlands. For over 50 years, Mulisch was a guest at the Boekenbal, and in recent years would take his place sitting on the staircase of the Stadsschouwburg.



Veenhof brought this memorable sight back to life with augmented reality, allowing the Boekenbal guests to relive their moments with Mulisch. One special guest, the late author’s son, provided an emotional moment as he opened Layar to see his father back in his rightful place on the stairs.



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