21 February 2005

Reversing Vandalism

In early 2001, San Francisco Public Library staff began finding vandalized books shoved under shelves, hidden throughout the Main Library.
Rather than discard the damaged books, the Library distributed them to interested community members in the hope of creating art.

Reversing Vandalism is the resulting exhibition.

This rocks my world for many reasons, not the least of which is that I am often the person who finds the cover of a book that has been "relieved" of its contents, or the book which has been redacted beyond recogniton. Sometimes, I save the bits and pieces that would otherwise be recycled into who-knows-what (parking tickets? public washroom paper towelling?) with the idea that they could one day be art. Now someone has beat me to it.

The fact that the books they chose to use for the project are largely about the Queer and Aids communities does add a certain level to the art, though many pieces are powerful on their own terms. One artist chose to represent the homophobic response to the books as the burning Twin Towers of 9/11. Another saw the the book's damage not as a wound but as an opening to release butterflies. And this piece stopped me cold, because we have the same book in our stacks and it has been replaced due to damage at least once. There are collages and sculptures and a wide variety of multimedia pieces, many with the artists' descriptions alongside thumbnail images. It's well worth a look.

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