Invited Moderator and Speaker, “Digital Praxis: The Role of Libraries in the Digital Age,” with Public Books, the Institute for Public Knowledge, and NYU Libraries, New York University, February 26, 2020
Invited Speaker, “Commoning the City,” “The Commons Are Dead. Long Live the Commons!” Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge, UK (virtual), June 12-13, 2020
“Fugitive Libraries,” Places Journal (October 2019)
On March 9, 2019, I partnered with the Metropolitan New York Library Council and the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York to host a half-day symposium on arts in the libraries. [Photos by Aidan Grant + Neta Bomani]:
What role do the arts and design play in today’s libraries? Our major public institutions frequently commission high-profile public art, some libraries feature dedicated exhibition space, and artists and designers have long drawn inspiration from archival and library collections. Yet today, as we access and create knowledge through an expanding array of designed platforms and interfaces, infrastructures and algorithms, aesthetic operations are integral to the core services that libraries provide. We see a growing number of library- and archive-based artists’ residencies and exhibitions, and expanding interest in more sustained collaborations across the library and art worlds. In this symposium we gather librarians, artists, designers, and representatives from allied fields to examine recent examples of library-centered creative practice, discuss the mutual benefits of such collaborations, and propose new models for growing and sustaining these partnerships.
- Opening (Nate Hill, Shannon Mattern) / Live Documentation (Neta Bomani + Cybernetics Library)
- Panel 1: New York / Privacy in Public (Greta Byrum, Toisha Tucker, Salome Asega)
- Panel 2: Helsinki / Library’s Other Intelligences (Anni Vartola, Laura Norris, Illari Laamanen, Jussi Parikka)
- Panel 3: Group Show (Trent Miller, Burak Arikan, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Jer Thorp)
Design by Johanna Lundberg:
“Our Libraries Aren’t Failing Us, We’re Failing Them,” Architectural Review (January 2019) [images: the brand-new libraries in Calgary and Helsinki]. Check out the AR’s buildings-for-books-themed issue!
The Book issue is here!From libraries and archives to the architecture of text itself, this bumper issue asks whether books and words shape architecture just as much as buildings✏️ pic.twitter.com/dWAAyWzRP8
— Architectural Review (@ArchReview) December 20, 2018
The Helsinki Central Library Oodi and the MOBIUS Fellowship Program of the Finnish Cultural Institute New York hosted The Library’s Other Intelligences, a project of commissioned artworks and a series of events, anticipating and celebrating the opening of the new Helsinki Central Library in early 2019.
MOBIUS fellows Jussi Parikka (University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art, UK) and Shannon Mattern (The New School, US) commissioned Finnish artists and designers Samir Bhowmik, Tuomas Aleksander Laitinen, and Jenna Sutela to create works that examine the new intelligences our evolving knowledge institutions accommodate. Installed in the new Central Library in January 2019, these projects revealed the alien logics of neural nets, gave voice to machinic and otherworldly languages, and made visible the material and informational infrastructures that allow intelligence to circulate.
Our exhibition opened on January 11, 2019, and we hosted a symposium featuring the artists’ work on January 12. Visitors to the library were invited to engage with the works — and with the new building — by attending live performances, embarking on expeditions, and reimagining how we will read, listen, and learn in a new techno-cultural future.
In the year leading up to the exhibition, we also hosted two public events in concert with PUBLICS, an event space and gallery in Helsinki:
- December 20, 2017: “Deep and Mattering Cities,” with Jussi Parikka and me [FCINY announcement]
- May 31, 2018: “Alternative AI’s,” with Samir Bhowmik, Tuomas A. Laitinen, and Jenna Sutela [FCINY announcement]
Images by Laura Boxberg and Ilari Laaminen
Elective graduate seminar course, The New School
“There has been more information produced in the last 30 years than during the previous 5000.”
We’ve all heard some variation on this maxim. As we find ourselves wading through a billion websites; as publishers supply over two million books to the world’s libraries each year; as we continue to add new media – from apps to geo-tagged maps – to our everyday media repertoires, we continually search for new ways to navigate this ever more treacherous sea of information. Meanwhile, our analog audio-visual archives are deteriorating, and our ever-volatile digital media and data sets present their own preservation challenges. Throughout human history we have relied on various institutions and politico-intellectual architectures to organize, index, preserve, make sense of, and facilitate or control access to our stores of knowledge, our assemblages of media, our collections of information. This seminar looks at the past, present, and future of our archives, libraries, and data repositories, and considers what logics, politics, audiences, contents, aesthetics, physical forms, etc., define them. We will examine what roles these collections play in a variety of contexts: in democracy, in education, in science, in socio-cultural heritage, in everyday life, and in art. Throughout the semester we’ll examine myriad analog and digital artworks that make use of archival/library material, or take the archive, library, or data repository as their subject. Some classes will involve field trips and guest speakers. Students will have the option of completing a substantial traditional research project, or a research-based, theoretically-informed creative/production project for the class.
See also Archived Class: Bookshelves to Big Data
Graduate seminar elective
“There has been more information produced in the last 30 years
than during the previous 5000.”
We’ve all heard some variation on this maxim. As U.S. publishers add 250,000 printed books and close to 300,000 print-on-demand books to our libraries each year; as we find ourselves wading through over 200 million websites; as we continue to add new media – from Tweets to Apps to geo-tagged maps – to our everyday media repertoires, we continually search for new ways to navigate this ever more treacherous sea of information. Throughout human history we have relied on various institutions and politico-intellectual architectures to organize, index, preserve, make sense of, and facilitate or control access to our stores of knowledge, our assemblages of media, our collections of information. This seminar looks at the past, present, and future of the library, the archive, and the database, and considers what logics, priorities, politics, audiences, contents, aesthetics, physical forms, etc., ally and differentiate these institutions. We will examine what roles the library, archive, and the database play in democracy, in education, in everyday life, and in art. Throughout the semester we’ll examine myriad analog and digital artworks that make use of library/archival material, or take the library, archive, or database as their subject. Some classes will involve field trips and guest speakers. Students will have the option of completing at least one theoretically-informed creative/production project for the class.
I was invited to talk about our work in this course at the 2014 Digital Preservation conference at the Library of Congress (talk + slides here), on the LOC’s Signal blog, and at the 2015 New York Art Resources Consortium conference at the Museum of Modern Art (talk + slides here). Archivist Extraordinaire Rick Prelinger has also had some nice things to say about the course:
— Rick Prelinger (@footage) August 26, 2013
— Rick Prelinger (@footage) October 30, 2014