photo via deaccession.org
Some time before embarking upon a glamorous career as an Internet nerd, I spent a year working at the exhibitions department at the main branch of the New York Public Library. As a result, I am now naturally drawn to projects likes Donald Judd’s non-circulating library in Marfa, and the similarly conceived Martha Rosler Library, which not only encourages viewers to read but offers a few free photocopies from the books in the collection. Providing a still more engaging example , Julia Weist and Maayan Pearl’s The Public Library of American Public Library Deaccession, collects deaccessioned books from libraries across the country to create a fully functional online database and installation titled With, Drawn. Aesthetically, the physical objects are flawless; an elegant card catalogue, a solitary bookcase, the almost humorous inclusion of a viewing bench, as are the smaller conceptual touches. For example, the artists painted the walls of With, Drawn to match the aged paper color of The Lincoln Sports Library Champions (volume 18), a book deaccessioned in 1987, the year most frequently discarded in 2007. The gesture is small, but poignant in its thoughtfulness.
A less poetic aspect to the piece, but of inestimable value is the fact that the library actually works. Almost inevitably, the user should find results to search terms they actually find interesting; witness my 374 search results for the term Art. While most of these books seem to be either written someone named Art or about “art” of something else, which in and of itself is rather amusing, I like that at least in theory, the results should give us an idea of what kind of art is deemed inaccurate, outdated or is simply unpopular with the residences of a particular city. Of course, it’s probably a little much to ask a database to tell you too much about art, which is why I eventually turned to investigating various bird guide discards. A popular past time for many in the 50’s and 60’s, the slim results for this key word tell us that either that American citizens maintain a far greater interest in birding than anyone knew, or that we’ve already thrown out all of these books.
A still developing portion of the project spun from the work creating the deaccession project, comes in the form of a romance novel by Julie Weist titled Sexy Librarian: Critical Edition of the Original Novel. Appropriately about rejection, a book proposal was conceived after Weist noticed the genre was the most commonly withdrawn from libraries across the country. The artist’s belief was that she would not be given a chance to write the book she had in mind, a natural assumption, given her prior publishing history, but one that turned out to be incorrect after Ellen Lupton offered to back the book. Now reading only classics, novels Weist describes as being “protected from progress with a kind of diplomatic immunity that ensured their continued presence on library shelves”. Appropriately, I expect Weist will be monitoring the accession and deaccession of this book from libraries across the county.
Julia Weist, Biography
Julia Weist received her B.F.A. from The Cooper Union School of Art and is completing her Masters of Library and Information Science at Pratt. Recently, her work has been shown at Anthology Film Archives, Proteus Gowanus Gallery, The Soap Factory, and she is working on two forth-coming publications with Ellen Lupton Sexy Librarian: Critical Edition of The Original Novel and Indie Publishing (Princeton Architectural Press). In 2007, Weist was awarded Ruth Gutman Epstein Memorial Prize for excellence in sculpture. She lives and works in Brooklyn.