Hill_Do it yourself
Christine Hill Do it Yourself Library (Excerpted), Collection of the Artist.
Photo : Volksboutique, © Christine Hill, courtesy of Galerie EIGEN+ART, Leipzig/Berlin & Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

The Library as Social Space in the Work of Christine Hill and Shooshie Sulaiman

Anna Arnar
Far from disappearing into the flotsam of old media, the book has increasingly been embraced by contemporary artists as an inherently social object operating in real time and space. Migratory in nature, books circulate between people and spaces and can establish, or redefine, social relations. As literary critic Leah Price has argued, books are not merely material objects to be held or textual vessels to be read; they are also symbolic objects that can “broker or buffer relationships.”1 1 - Leah Price, How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012), 12.

Although Price focuses her analysis on readers in Victorian England, I want to consider how books as “brokering” agents function in contemporary installation projects that adapt the structure and trope of the library. For this task, I present two case studies: the works of Christine Hill and Shooshie Sulaiman. These artists’ methods, choice of materials, and geographic centres of activity are radically divergent, and yet both adapt the concept of 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 and appropriated books of diverse origins, 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.

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This article also appears in the issue 89 – Library - Library

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