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​A collaborative data visualization project 
based on Jules Verne's classic novel, 
"The Mysterious Island"


The Text

As Sher and Berny wandered around the Strand Book Store in New York City, they began establishing loose parameters to aid in their book selection for this project. This rule set was formulated based on both practicality and their individual literary tastes:

1. The length of the novel must be approximately  500 pages - long enough to last a year, but short enough to not be a burden.

2. It should be a fictional novel written in a conventional narrative form - no experimental structures or short story anthologies due to the already experimental nature of
​the project.

3. The content should not have anything to do with NYC or too closely tied to historical events.

4. Neither Sher nor Berny should have read the book.

5. The book store must possess 2 copies of the book so that both can purchase it at the same time.

Based on this system, they embarked on a gruelling process of elimination, eventually settling on Jules Verne's 1874 novel The Mysterious Island. According to the blurb: "a group of men escape imprisonment during the American Civil War by stealing a balloon. Blown across the world, they are air-wrecked on a remote desert island ... eventually constructing a sophisticated society in miniature." Much like the other books in Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires series (which includes Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), this novel weaves scientific detail into an epic adventure. This makes it an apt choice for a project that is essentially a diagrammatic journey in itself.

The Project

Isle-to-Isle is a web-based experimental reading project conceived by Sher Chew (designer) and Berny Tan (artist/designer) 
who have backgrounds in data vizualization/information design. 

The project commenced on June 1, 2014 with the purchase of the domain name (Isle-to-Isle.infofor the duration of a year. Every week, Sher and Berny each read 10 pages of Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island (Wordsworth Classics edition). Without consulting one another, they will each generate a diagram based off those 10 pages. The nature of the project is relatively organic, with the diagrams being a by-product of their engagement with the text.
Every Sunday, by midnight, both diagrams will be published side-by-side on the website along with the text from the 10 pages. Sher and Berny's progression through the novel, their shared penchant for diagrams, as well as the process of reading itself, will thus be laid bare in this year-long dual input feed that will ultimately become a mammoth illustration of Verne's adventure classic.

The Name

The name Isle-to-Isle takes its inspiration from the name of the novel, but it is also representative of the collaboration between two individuals. Incidentally, both individuals moved from one island to another—Singapore to Manhattan—to attend art schools in New York City. The word "isle" is also homonymous with "aisle," much like the aisles of bookshelves that Sher and Berny traversed in search of the text. This further recalls the format of the website, wherein the diagrams run adjacent to one another.
The Collaborators

Berny Tan
was born and raised in Singapore, and graduated with a BFA in Visual & Critical Studies in May 2014 from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She is a self-diagnosed chronic over-thinker who is navigating her potential roles as artist, writer, and/or curator (among others). Her work explores the space that exists between the rational—as represented by the systematic visual language of diagrams—and the emotional—her personal experiences as they overlap with contemplations of culture, history, language, and identity. Each mapping is refracted through a sincere, rigorous, and at times perplexing introspection, in order to achieve a complex interpretation of herself and the world around her that is as much intellectual as it is sensitive.

Sher Chew (Sherylene Chew) is a Singaporean designer currently based in New York. She graduated from Parsons, The New School for Design in 2014 with a BFA in Communication Design. She sees design as a means of inquiry across all disciplines. Her practice is a reciprocal process of investigation, dissection 
​and reconstruction.