Library | esse arts + opinions


89 - Hiver 2017

Libraries are institutions which don’t only accumulate knowledge, but also sacralize it for posterity. With the advance of digitization in institutions around the world, the role of a library as a physical place is in constant fluctuation. How do artists approach this seismic movement? How do artists incorporate the book culture into their work? What are the theoretical channels motivating critical expression regarding the transformation of libraries role? This issue explores the role, status and function of the library in contemporary art.

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Articles à la pièce

Anja Bock
Zsofia Bene & Olindo Caso
Anna Arnar
Paulina Mickiewicz
Sylvette Babin


From the Written Memory to Social Space
Sylvette Babin


Participatory Libraries and the Possibility of Making a Mess
In this essay, Anja Bock discusses the paradigm shift that libraries have undergone in the last few decades and artists’ position within them. By looking at the work of Cliff Eyland, Julia Weist, Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw, as well as Hal Ingberg, Bock shows how the library is both a rigid institution and a place of creative potential. She questions the idealistic rhetoric of democracy that envelops libraries, as well as the possibility of intervening in library procedures in more than a symbolic way.
Anja Bock

The Library and the Reconstruction of Discarded History
The contemporary public library is a proactive performative space that liberates creative energies to challenge warped social and political dynamics. Yet the collective identity of the library still reflects an image of book repositories. The collections, which are less and less browsed, potentially become the material for creative stimulation. As library programming is rooted in its socio-political context, the ambiguity and contradictions within post-soviet Hungary present interesting experiments. Two Budapest-based exhibitions, Concrete and Dead Library, reflect on the socialist (written) heritage while encouraging visitors to think critically about their discarded history, and especially their present.
Zsófia Bene & Olindo Caso

The Library as Social Space in the Work of Christine Hill and Shooshie Sulaiman
Although their work diverges on many points, artists Christine Hill and Shooshie Sulaiman both embrace the library as a social space that encourages engagement from the spectator including roaming, handling, reading, information gathering, social exchange and conversation. Using carefully crafted handmade books, as well as a range of appropriated books, Hill and Sulaiman tap into an everyday object that is both familiar in its form and at home in multiple social contexts, making it ideal for individual and collective consumption.
Anna Arnar

The Library of 2114
In 2014, Berlin-based Scottish visual artist, Katie Paterson, in collaboration with Bjorvika Utvikling, and the city of Oslo, began an art project called Future Library – Framtidsbiblioteket. Future Library is an art project intended to span over one hundred years. A forest with one thousand trees has been planted in Nordmarka, Norway, in order to supply the paper to print an anthology of books that will be read in one hundred years’ time. While at first glance Paterson’s art project is a reflection of what the library as an institution and the transfer of knowledge in general might look like in a hundred years, it is also an alternative way of reflecting on what the library is representative of and what role it plays in contemporary society.
Paulina Mickiewicz

Retranscription of Foundational Texts in Simon Bertrand’s Work
The Québecois artist Simon Bertrand has retranscribed major works in the history of literature, among them a selection of foundational texts such as the Bible, Homer’s Odyssey, and Plato’s Symposium. To ground his process, Bertrand is particularly inspired by Truth or Death: The Quest for Immortality in the Western Narrative Tradition, by Thierry Hentsch, in which the philosopher looks at foundational texts from a different angle. Following Hentsch’s path, Bertrand proposes new writing of the great narratives.
Sylvette Babin



Big Hoodoo DADA
Michel F. Côté and Catherine Lavoie-Marcus


Oli Sorenson, Re-made in China, Montréal by Sébastien Hudon

William Kentridge, Triumphs and Laments: A Project for Rome, Rome by Monique Webber

Laure Prouvost, We would be floating away from the dirty past, Munich by Carlos Kong

Derek Sullivan, On Filling In, Toronto by Alex Bowron

Soulèvements, Paris by Nathalie Desmet

Patrick Bernier et Olive Martin, Wilwildu, Saint-Nazaire by Vanessa Morisset

La répétition mise à l’épreuve, Montréal by Florence-Agathe Dubé-Moreau and Maude Johnson

Bonnie Camplin, The Eight Pieces, London by Emily LaBarge

Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, Reading by Emily LaBarge

Julie Favreau, Délicat Pulse, Montréal by Anne-Marie Dubois

Wim Delvoye, Montréal by Dominique Sirois-Rouleau

Holzwege, Shanghai by Todd Meyers

The Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Image, London by Emily Rosamond

CAPITALIST DUETS, Toronto by Fabien Maltais-Bayda

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