A Curious Librarium with artistic tendencies

Posted Sept. 22, 2014 by Rebecca Conroy

The Librarium is an archive and discursive space based in Sydney which first emerged in 2009 from within the artist run space Bill+George, and later expanded to include a group of “artists with library tendencies”. Among the many valid reasons for starting your own archive, chief among them was our desire to acquire and curate bookshelves of good-looking books, artist made books, and stimulating small press publications, which we could hold in our hands as devices to trigger riveting conversation. Included in this was also the desire to archive a repository of our own ephemeral literature and objects that together would map a cultural cartography of our spaces and practices, both local and across the seas.


We were also interested in imagining new ways to extend the space-time of “the art project” by creating discursive platforms that would help unfold additional layers of the work/event/situation/encounter. An example of this was the Yurt Empire, a large scale interdisciplinary collaboration of 23 artists from Sydney which contained many traces and tangents, and existed as many different manifestations—from installation, exhibition, video, publication, design, presentations, labs and event.

Our key questions were: How can we build an architecture of sense-making for projects that are a collection of data-in-situ, and which require an unfolding of experience through conversation and dialogue? How can we create a space that activates the documentation of a project as integral to the project itself; not merely as a record of the event, or the tracings of the ephemeral, but which also acts in concert with the spaces of viewing/audience/spectator to animate them in vital and interesting ways. How can the library or archive be activated as an in-between space?

The Librarium as a conceit encompasses many converging lines of interest and enquiry. I have attempted to sketch this out diagrammatically below. It flows much like a meta-catalogue tracing the biological ecological and philosophical spaces of data to help amplify and construct a genealogy for a future library-exchange-collaboration.

Some of these ideas still largely occupy the crevices of my mind as I carve out thought-space to reimagine a new economy, or at least an attempt at intervening in economy; particularly now as finance capitalism and the algorithm of data sets come to prominence in determining our relationship with the world as subjects. As a performative space for inventing rules and regulations, the hegemonic discourse of free market economics, seems to be ripe for the creation of counter-fictions and experiments in value-creation and the language of speculative futures. And how we arrange, categorise and apply data to real-world situations is growing in popularity across many fields and disciplines, as it intersects with the emerging field of Big Data—from how we store and capture data, but in particular with the ways Big Data can be harnessed and applied to improve situations, or rendered most useful.

It seems that data is accumulating around us at frightening speeds. From the transfer of biodata as the new currency (where you become the product that is being sold through social media) to the internet’s devolution into a massive surveillance machine, all around us, big and small data shapes our movements and forges new subjectivities designed to function more efficiently in a data saturated world. But efficiency for whom, for what purpose, and in what direction? The call for slow reflexive time and intervention into the lightening speed cable of data transfer seems to beckon the return to the library—not in the spirit of Luddism, but rather as a call to to take up the text-object-book as a tangible material relation to the abstract. As a disruption to the invisible data transfer, kept anonymous and unknown in the ‘cloud’, the book as object in the present forces us to consider the different ways that the archive and the database has evolved through the evolution of new technologies, and what that now means for the human subject of the future.