2 cases, each 40″x72″x28″
Excavations uses the typical glass display cases used to exhibit books in libraries everywhere. These cases usually open a book to exhibit one selected spread, leaving the rest of the book frustratingly inaccessible. In Excavations, we extend that idea to suggest the whole of the library’s treasure trove. Layers of books fill the cases completely, forming a geology of texts, sliced at the edges to fit the case. Within this, various locations have been roughly excavated to find images and texts—loose ends. There are layers upon layers of sediment, a whole history of human endeavor and thought in that ground. We commit an act of archaeology, digging to take samplings—leaving all of the rest undiscovered, buried forever.
The various “findings” in Excavations are all completely independent of each other, in separate books, uniquely authored, originating perhaps decades and thousands of miles apart. But they also all seem to have something to do with each other.
Some are fragments from a larger narrative:
“Do you know what they will do with the boy?” “I do not care what they do with the boy. I only know what we will do to take the boy and give him to the other people. We are being paid for that. We are not being paid to worry about what happens to the boy after that.”
Or epigrammatic verse:
I care for nobody–no, not I,
And nobody cares for me.
The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.
Or enigmatic song:
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right to
See the dawn of peace. Tenting tonight,
Tenting tonight, Tenting on the old campground.
Of a man carrying a load on his head
Of a rodent perched on hind legs
Of a bulky suited man whose featureless face is hidden in the shadow cast by his hat brim
Of an explosive pink fight between Dr. Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2
Of a woman covered in a brilliant orange burka, exposed by the excavation only to remain unknown
Of a penal colony in Surinam
Or a psychological test questionnaire:
1. anxiousness – Do you ever feel anxious?
2. fear – Have you ever felt afraid for no reason?
3. panic – How easily do you get upset?
4. mental disintegration – Do you ever feel like you’re falling apart? Going to pieces?
5. Apprehension – Have you ever felt that something terrible was going to happen?
Or a dictionary listing:
MUTILATE: to cut, tear, break off, amputate, clip, lacerate.
And this is where the book is cut off to fit into the glass case.
Each of these samples is in its own independent pit, the only concourse between them left to the viewer. The viewer, the reader, like the artist, is left to construct something with the fragments, knowing full well that the vast preponderant wealth of what is there to know remains buried.
About The Library Project
The Library Project is an installation of artworks that explore the nature of the library–its vastness, its proliferation, and the peculiarities of its organization. While the Wesleyan Library is its specific subject and site, the project refers by implication to any and all libraries.
The Library Project began in the Fall of 2001 as a credited, three-student tutorial with James Jacobus ’03, Myra Rasmussen ’04, and Aki Sasamoto ’04 under the auspices of the Christian Johnson Foundation. Later, Wolasi Konu ’04 joined the project as graphic designer. During the semester we worked as a research and development team–researching some of the operations of the library (acquisitions, cataloging, etc), reading relevant texts (Borges, The Library of Babel; Barthes, The Plates of the Encyclopedie; Spoerri, An Anecdoted Topography of Chance), and experimenting with and modeling ideas for works of art about the library. By the end of the semester, we had general plans for an exhibition to consist of several distinct but related works of art in response to the library. For the next year and a half, in fits and starts, we made the works.
We focused our project on the library’s burgeoning scope, and how its profusion of representations organize information and bodies of knowledge. We were particularly interested in the library’s liberal inclusiveness and decisive selectivity, which occludes from sight all that it excludes; the organizational pathways of the Library of Congress classification system which inevitably obscure other possible routes of inquiry; and the general proximities of knowledge–the ways in which areas of knowledge interconnect or self-isolate, whether by accident or design. Ultimately, we were concerned with how the library indexes the world of experience outside of the library. Because the library is now so large and complex a universe unto itself, and so influential on our perception and thought, there appears to be a reversal at work – the world now becomes an index to the library.