At the beginning of January, a group from our staff flew to New York for the winter flurry of activity surrounding the annual APAP conference and a chance to visit our friends at Under the Radar, COIL, and American Realness. While there, a few members of our little Resource Room Committee went rogue, ditching out of performances to search out some of the newest archives and book spaces around Manhattan.
We’ve had our library up-and-running ever since 2000, but it seems there’s been a recent proliferation of institutional collections and reading rooms at alt spaces across the country. A lot of this boom likely stems from the long (and growing shadow) the Internet casts over our lives. How do we get individuals to engage with the physical spaces we’ve created and not just our organizations’ websites? Where do books fit in the new order? It’s clearly on a lot of minds. The New York Public Library even hosted a panel today dedicated to the future of art book publishing. Artist-run spaces and projects just might be imagining some of the possible answers to these questions.
In New York, we met up with former PICA staffer Rachel Peddersen, who is currently at work on The Kitchen‘s digital archive. She gave us a very *top secret* peak at their new system, with which they are trying to document all of their events from their 40-year history through video, sound, programs, photos and more. It’s incredible to think that an institution that has presented everyone from the Beastie Boys to Vito Acconci to Charles Atlas to Laurie Anderson could make that content available for viewing online. It inspires dreams for our own archive….
From there, we dropped by the Goethe Institut (3rd floor, elevator, no building signage! We’re not the only ones!), to check out their The Ends of the Library project. As a multi-artist residency exploring the future of book collections, we were interested in seeing how the artists had interacted with a small collection, hoping that it might push our thinking around our own Resource Room Residencies.
The most compelling part of the project we caught was a font called Human Readable Type. Download the file and it creates a new keyboard layout for your Mac that outputs regular typing as a series of dingbats, Greek letters, and other alternative characters that resemble Roman letter forms. In practice, the font can’t be read by web bots and other recognition software, confounding the very databases that the project is in dialogue with. Sometimes working with archives as a material means working against the functionality of those tools.
Our group took a quick detour to see Amy O’Neill’s show at the Swiss Institute, where we fell in love with a clever cover to a simple little publication.
And then we finally wound our way back to visit Artists Space’s new Books & Talks storefront. Artists Space expanded operations to this library/bookshop/gathering space so they could better accomodate all of the critical thought that artists are generating: publications, symposia, screenings, lectures, and research projects like the W.A.G.E. survey. The shelves are filled with their own institutional publications, interspersed with selections by a group of 100 artists and curators who were each asked to choose 10 titles. It’s an eclectic collection with fascinating through-lines and juxtapositions.
Let’s just say we felt at right at home there, but ready to get back and re-explore our own idiosyncratic library.