Ilan Manouach Shapereader 3.–19.11.2017

Photographic Gallery Hippolyte

In November Hippolyte will show Shapereader, an exhibition of experimental, tactile comics by Ilan Manouach. This will continue the collaboration between Photographic Gallery Hippolyte and the Saari Residence, where Ilan Manouach worked in 2013.

Shapereader, developed by Ilan Manouach, is a repertoire of shapes that transforms images and meaning into touchable, tactile formations. Through this constructed language its reader will find possibilities to access, experience and enjoy visual narratives even with no, or impaired, vision. Presented as plates that can be touched and traced with fingertips Shapereader consist of an expanding number of touchable ideograms, or tactigrams, that provide equivalents for all elements of a story.

The first original graphic novel created with Shapereader is Arctic Circle, realized in 2014 with funding from Kone Foundation. Over 57 pages, or plates, Arctic Circle tells the story of two climatologists in the North Pole. This is done through braille and the Shapereader tactigrams, which can signify characters, objects, actions as well as affections or emotions. The shapes can convey primary emotions like joy or fear or more complicated and ambivalent states like that of remorse or unease. Through intensity and the placing of the shapes it allows for a non-visual representation of e.g. the internal state of the protagonists. In order to follow the story the reader must first be acquainted with communication boards that contain the lexicon of shapes used in Shapereader.

The exhibition at Hippolyte will include both the introduction to the language developed by Ilan Manouach through the communication boards and samples of the Arctic Circle story. In addition to that we will see a continuation of Manouach’s work in the form of tea bricks carrying the tactile language of Shapereader. This work refers to the ancient practise of preserving and transporting tea by compressing it to bricks that carried also information of its content. Subsequently tea bricks were used even as currency. Here the tea lends itself again to a new form of transferring information.

Ilan Manouach’s work is both interesting and enjoyable, while the exhibition also brings forth the questions of accessibility of visual art to all audiences. Shapereader as a tactile tool for conveying narrative offers not only a marginal form of visual arts, the graphic novel, to a marginal audience for visual arts, the visually impaired, but presents everyone with a possibility to be immersed into the world of tactile narratives. In connection to it Hippolyte will organize workshops aimed at a varied audience and encourage discussions around the related topics.


Ilan Manouach (b. 1980, Athens) is a multidisciplinary artists based in Athens, Greece. He graduated in 2017 with an MA from the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He is currently working on his Doctoral Thesis at the Aalto University, The School of Art, Design and Architecture in Espoo, Finland.

Ilan Manouach mainly works with experimental and conceptual comics. Since 2003 he has pub­lished more than a dozen works in a book form and has curated four antholo­gies bring­ing together con­tri­bu­tions from artists, crit­ics, lawyers and dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sion­als of the book indus­try. Addi­tion­ally to his work as a comics artist he is a pub­lisher, musician, com­poser, and a per­former.

Ilan Manouach worked at the Saari Residence in 2013 while developing Shapereader. Kone Foundation funded the publication of Arctic Cirle in 2014. Shapereader has been exhibited in various venues all around the world, including Bel­gium, Brazil, Den­mark, France, Greece, Israel, Ser­bia, Spain, Switzer­land, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Most recently it was presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017 in Germany.

Find out more about Ilan Manouach and Shapereader. Get to know the Saari Residence.


3–19 November 2017
Ilan Manouach

Photographic Gallery Hippolyte & Hippolyte Studio
Yrjönkatu 8–10 courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, +358 9 612 33 44,
Opening hours: Tue–Fri 12–5 pm, Sat–Sun 12–4 pm

image: Imagen MAS