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The Future Library Service

With the focus on curators, artists are turning themselves into curators, collectors, or a librarian as in Sonja Hornung’s “The Future Library Service” in Vitrine at Platform in June, 2012. The Future Library Service had previously installed amongst the shelves of Melbourne City Library and reviewed by Health, Philosophy, Politics and Other Rants.

The Future Library Service in Vitrine

I met up with the librarian Sonja Hornung on the library’s last day in Vitrine. It was getting its most visitors – 3 including myself cramped in small space of a former second-hand bookshop (and before that urban history runs out –probably a rag trade display given the size).

The Future Library Service has a clearly defined collection of books about the future, or rather given the age, a future that never was. Sonja Hornung had catalogued all of the books and knew them so that she could recommend them to visitors to the library. The library still has an online presence, an essential element to any library, with a complete catalogue of the 100 books about the future.

I asked Sonja Hornung if she would continue with another library theme in her next installation but she said she be doing more “relational aesthetics” or “social practice”.

The French curator Nicholas Bourriaud called it “relational aesthetics”, the art of the institution and their social interactions – basically it is playing shop, museum or library as art. These interactive installations or happenings go back to Claes Oldenburg’s “Store” 1961 or even Marcel Duchamp’s “Monte Carlo Bonds” 1924 with a plan that required 9-5 gambling to earn a clerk’s wage.

Interactive is not an easy thing to achieve – people have to want to interact, there needs to be a reward for interacting and books are a good reward. Trying not to “railroad” the participant by force the direction of the interaction and a collection provides many directions. Many people go to art galleries in part to avoid interactions, to have time to reflect and so interactions are not high on their to do list while they are there, consequently the best of interactive art are not in gallery spaces (the space at Platform falls somewhere in between). The time to facilitate this kind of art is a further complication – the library was open Weds-Fri, 9-6:00, and selected Saturdays – I’d been past earlier and had a look through the glass at this small library but it hadn’t been open.

The  “Free tooth brush with every book borrowed” policy of the library is quirky. Sonja tells me there is a reference to Kaprow in the toothbrushes. I thought that it was about the oral purity of the future or a reference to the Surrealist provocation: “If you read Andre Gide aloud for ten minutes your breath will stink.”

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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