press release

The Library Vaccine 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.

The exhibition title is taken from a text by the curator and writer Edit deAk that introduced the 1981 Printed Matter catalogue. In this short piece she referred to artists' books as "the library vaccine, a healing agent formed from the very disease they cure." Each section of the exhibition presents a collection that loosely corresponds to a decade between the 1960s and the present day, yetThe Library Vaccine doesn't 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.

The Library Vaccine is presented across Artists Space Exhibitions and Artists Space Books & Talks, and will feature a number of talks and programs that both reflect on and activate the books and collections exhibited. Collections in the exhibition are:

– The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell & Joe Orton

Between 1959 and 1962 the playwright Joe Orton and his partner writer and artist Kenneth Halliwell undertook an illicit project, removing books from the shelves of their local London library, collaging their covers and altering sections of text before returning them. Orton and Halliwell were subsequently arrested, serving six months for “malicious damage.” The books they “defaced” are still held in the collection of the library, and are now conserved as esteemed cultural artifacts.

– Edition Hansjörg Mayer

Including books by Marcel Broodthaers, Franceso Clemente, Herman de Vries, Reinhard Döhl, Richard Hamilton, Franz Eggenschwiler, Robert Filliou, Arthur Kopke, Liliane Lijn, Claes Oldenberg, Magnus Pålsson, Tom Phillips, Eduardo Paolozzi, Arnulf Rainer, Dieter Roth, Hansjorg Schneider, Dominik Steiger, André Thomkins, Jan Voss, Emmett Williams

– Vigilance: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books Exploring Strategies for Social Concern, after an exhibition curated by Lucy R. Lippard and Mike Glier

Including books by Ida Applebroog, Vagrich Bakchanyan, June Blum, Nancy Schaefer and June Buckles, Chris Burden, Victor Burgin, Don Celender, Carol Condé and Karl Beveridge, Robert Cooney, Robert D’Alessandro, Pepe Diniz, Ariel Dorfman, Barbara England, Hal Fischer, Guerilla Art Action Group, Hans Haacke, Jenny Holzer, Jörg Immendorf, Leandro Katz, Margia Kramer, Suzanne Lacy, Les Levine, Jane Logemann, Melissa Mathis, Paul McQuirk, Paul McMahon, Annette Messager, Muntadas, Linda Nishio, Ira Nowinski, Clemente Padin, Adrian Piper, Tony Rickaby, Judy Rifka, Martha Rosler, Suzanne Santoro, Charles Simonds, Athena Tacha, Francesc Torres, Larry Walczak, and Stephen Willats, Reese Williams, Marie Yates

– The Colin de Land Library

“The Colin de Land Library” is the title given posthumously to the collection of books that occupied the shelves of the New York gallery American Fine Arts, Co. at the time of the death of its owner Colin de Land in 2003. The curator Jackie McAllister stated at the time: “when entering American Fine Arts, Co., the viewer is invited to engage any number of effects pertaining to questions of meaning/production.” As such, the “library” stands as both a document of AFA’s program and the eclectic interests of Colin de Land, and of this expanded notion of effects at work within a topological space of art and ideas.

– Everything is About to Happen: An ongoing archive of artists’ books selected by Gregorio Magnani

Including books by Kasper Andreasen, Linus Bill and Adrien Horni, blisterZine, Daniel Gustav Cramer, Arnaud Desjardin, Michael Dean, Karl Holmqvist, Louis Luthi, Sara MacKillop, Dan Mitchell, Kristen Mueller, Sophie Nys, Simon Popper, Preston is my Paris, Alessandro Roma, Karin Ruggaber, John Russell, Erik Steinbrecher, Peter Tillessen, Erik van der Weijde

– The Library of Helen DeWitt

Writer Helen DeWitt, author of the novels The Last Samurai (2000), Your Name Here (with Ilya Gridneff, 2008) and Lightning Rods (2011), has since the late 1990s waged a quiet war on the intransigence of the social machines that govern language. While she has described the intellectual and artistic urge towards the purification of language as “something like display of impotence in the face of chaos,” in her novels and blog-writing she has addressed “debugging the system of signs” from the perspective of linguistics, coding, the visualization of data, and the vagaries of the publishing world. She sees her own writing, and the revision and editing it’s subject to, as an epistemological open field in dialogue with that represented by her library.

buchsammlungen / collections of books

The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell & Joe Orton; Edition Hansjörg Mayer; Vigilance, an Exhibition of Artists’ Books curated by Lucy R. Lippard and Mike Glier; Everything is About to Happen, an ongoing archive of artists’ books selected by Gregorio Magnani; The Library of Helen DeWitt; The Colin de Land Library