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While weeding my personal library to move to a smaller apartment, I resisted the idea of selling my books or packing them away to be stored indefinitely. I decided instead to give them away, and to perform this act as a work of art. That is how Lost Library (#lostlibrary) was born, a ‘social media endurance performance’ in Soho, NYC, during the summer heatwave of 2011.
From June 19th to July 6th, I repeatedly put as many books as I could fit into two cotton tote bags and carried them from my third floor loft down to the street. I wandered in the heat, a bag on each shoulder, stopping to deposit books (in themed batches) in window wells or stoops. Each time I unloaded my books, I photographed them with my smartphone and tweeted the shot along with location coordinates. I tagged the images #LostLibrary and they posted simultaneously to Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Some followers, as well as passersby, came to browse my books. Sometimes they tweeted a “thank you” photograph to show the world what books they chose. Some of them wrote blog posts about the experience and posted photographs of their finds.
Lost Library was a project that instantaneously shared, documented, and enacted the age-old act of sharing books while pointing to our contemporary quandary over sharing in a world where, increasingly, licensing supplants ownership, and digital files replace analogue objects. Lost Library comprises both the advantages and drawbacks of immateriality, and asks us to consider what is lost as we forgo the heft of so much printed matter.
View the full set of Lost Library images here.
Bibliomania, curated by: Mary Birmingham
October 7th – December 11th
October 14th 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Bibliomania examines the myriad ways contemporary artists feature books as the subject of their art. A “book” used to be defined as a number of printed or written pages bound together along one edge, protected by covers. Today, the concept of the book continues to evolve and expand, most notably in the direction of digital media.
Interestingly, many contemporary artists are making art about books—photographing them, arranging them, drawing and painting them, dissecting them and making sculptural facsimiles of them—always finding various ways to address the book as subject matter for their work. Ironically, while the content of books becomes increasingly more accessible with the advent of electronic readers e-books and digitized books, artists seem to be paying more attention to the book as an object.
Why, at this moment in time, are some artists focusing their attention on the good-old-fashioned bound volume? Does this stem from a growing anxiety over the possible obsolescence of books? Are books becoming cultural artifacts, and are artists treating them as relics, and perhaps even fetishizing them? Whatever the motivation, many artists are making provocative works that challenge viewers to consider the roles and meaning of the book in the digital age.