The Library Vaccine, from September 25 to November 9 at Artists Space in New York, is an exhibition that presents a number of discrete collections of books in order to sample art’s distinctive relationship to the book form in its singularity, and in its states of reproduction, distribution and accumulation. The exhibition addresses the book as a particular technology, and in its collective state of the private collection, reading room or library, as a social machine – registering social and personal histories, and articulating structures of knowledge and value through the relations between its parts.
Each section of the exhibition presents a collection that loosely corresponds to a decade between the 1960s and the present day, yet it does not seek to survey a recent history of books in or as art; rather it takes the tension between book-as-text and book-as-object as a starting point. The exhibition marks a movement from the egalitarian, curative aspirations of the book as distributed artwork, to these aspirations’ subsumption within broader tendencies towards collecting, archiving and the re-circulation of knowledge.
Some sections of the exhibition revolve around curatorial or editorial frameworks that highlight artists’ use of the book form, while others focus on the collection or library as a holistic entity. In these contexts the act of collation emphasizes shifts between the private and the common, the artwork and the artifact. The roles of artist, publisher and collector are seen to overlap, and the sequenced content of both the individual book and the massed collection provides sites for the production and articulation of meaning. In each instance, the mode of physical display of the books is considered as an extension of their individual or collective character.
With The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell & Joe Orton; Edition Hansjörg Mayer; Vigilance: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books Exploring Strategies for Social Concern, after an exhibition curated by Lucy R. Lippard and Mike Glier; The Colin de Land Library; Everything is About to Happen: An ongoing archive of artists’ books selected by Gregorio Magnani; & The Library of Helen DeWitt.