activating the library as a space

Image by cwalker71

I’m still buzzing from a conversation I had with Glen Lowry where we brainstormed how the library could be “activated as a space for artistic and research inquiry”.

Right now I work at a small university library at an art and design school. Currently there is no programming happening, which doesn’t seem to be that uncommon for a university library. We have an exhibition space that we let students and classes to show use to show their work. There’s also a small display case upstairs.

The library is used heavily as a place to study, sit and ponder, do group work, and occasionally nap.A   Some weekday afternoons there are students sitting in the stacks because there isn’t enough space. On the weekend the library is used primarily as a safe and comfortable space to work. There is a regular patron, who is professor somewhere else, who is writing his fourth book in our library, and a few other authors have told me that they wrote large chunks of their novels in the study carrels.

I think the library has a huge potential to be utilized as a space for events or programming. We could host readings, like the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square branch has done for the past 7 years. We could bring out some of our artist book collection, that is usually in locked filing cabinets, for people to browse. We could also invite book artists or book arts groups to collaborate with us. We could invite students studying curation to set up exhibitions on our walls. We could set up chairs outside on the street and screen local experimental film, mainstream animation, or carrels of slides on our windows at night time. We could set up a living library. There’s a whole lot of things we could do.

We could invite and encourage students and faculty to make site specific installations, or do site specific performances. One of my coworkers talked about the library as a type of laboratory. I like this word as it implies exploration, investigation, looking for new ways to do things, and learning from failures. I love the idea of experimenting to find new ways of arranging and providing access to our physical and electronic collections.

I love how the Vancouver Public Library has a public art program.A   I especially loved the recent aerial dance performance that utilized the inside concourse and outside walls as a stage.

I’m keen to experiment and activate the library space. Does your university library do any programming? How could your library’s space be utilized in new ways?

kandou shimashita

Kandou (æ„Ÿå‹•) is one of those Japanese emotions that I’ve felt a couple of times in the past year. It translates as “to be deeply moved emotionally or excited”, but that doesn’t quite capture the meaning. It’s a noun, generally used with the verb to do or to make: suru (する). Colloquially people often say kandou shimashita.

Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama

At the tail end of my vacation in New Zealand, I went to the Wellington Art Gallery to see an exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s work. I’ve admired her work for a long time, and this was the first time I saw her art in person. When I went into the mirrored room with the dangling lights that reflected forever in the mirrors and the water on the floor, I was deeply moved. I talked to one of the gallery staff and learned that the day before a woman who had recently a brain aneurysm wanted to see this room, but was anxious and worried about the potential effect. The staff person reassured her, showed her that she could open the door to let herself out at any time, and explained that the water was only a few inches deep. Apparently she spent a long time experiencing this room and came out with tears streaming down her face. She too, had been deeply moved by the experience. Kandou shimashita.

I asked if I could lie on the floor of the day room, a room painted in bright yellow with black polka dots, with many large peanut shaped yellow and black polka dotted inflatables. Some were propped up against the wall and a few were suspended from the ceiling. One was moving slightly. I lay under it watching the giant polka dotted object gently move. It was an utterly wonderful experience. Kandou shimashita.

In August, I got to see Jodaiko, an all star group of international female taiko performers brought together by taiko legend Tiffany Tamaribuchi. From year to year the members of this group shift a little bit, and in 2009 two professional musicians from Okinawa joined them. The concert is always amazing–everyone is extremely skilled (most are professional musicians), they drum with intense joy and passion, and that is communicated to the audience. For me, it’s also exciting to see a lot of fierce queer Asian women perform in such a skilled and powerful way. Jodaiko explodes the stereotype that Japanese women are quiet, subservient, delicate and weak. I suppose I was a bit emotional to be home in Vancouver, and Pride weekend/Powell St. Festival always are exciting and a bit of an overload. When Tiffany and one of the women from Okinawa were playing on a drum together, their intensity, passion, and joy were so intense. Until then I’d never been moved to tears by music. The only words that came close to expressing how I felt was kandou shimashita.

One of the things I love about working at an art school is that I’m surrounded by creative people who are always making stuff. I’ve been surprised at how politically minded most of the students seem to be. I’m not at all excited about the Olympics coming to Vancouver, but I’ve been moved and impressed by the political art that’s been happening to express resistance to the Olympics, as well as the recent cuts to arts funding. These creative responses give me hope. Kandou shimashita.

That Lady is Naked! @ the VAG

Ià ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢m normally not all that interested in whatà ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢s going on at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).A   I was pretty disappointed with Crazy, the last exhibit.A   My friend Sarah Leavitt sums up the many of the problems with the exhibit.

Ià ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢m excited by the current exhibition WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution, which is a survey of art from 70s second wave feminists.A   The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA put together a fabulous website for this exhibit.A   I went to the opening, but it was crowded and spent a lot of time gabbing, so I donà ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢t have much to say about the artyet.A   This is the most community programming Ià ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢ve ever noticed the art gallery doing, and I think ità ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢s great.A   Ità ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢s also particularly fitting to have workshops, lectures and discussion around feminist art.

I heard about this program on CBC radio.A   Meg Hickling sounds like a dynamo.A   In the short interview, she said this workshop is for parents who need skills talking to their 5-12 year olds about naked bodies.A   She said she does a different workshop for parents about talking to kids about sex.

Ià ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢m mentioning this on this blog as often challenges come from adults about kids or teen books because of issues around sexuality: descriptions of sex, masturbation, or issues around homosexuality or bisexuality.A   I think a workshop like this might work well in a library.

Hereà ¢Ã¢”š ¬Ã¢”ž ¢s the info:

That Lady is Naked!

In The Gallery With Meg Hickling

October 26, 1pm

In the Gallery

There are naked people in the Gallery; how do you tell your child? This unique workshop with world-renowned sex educator Meg Hickling invites parents to explore WACK! with their children. Hickling, the author of five books and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada, is noted for her ability to present complex material with intelligence, warmth and sensitivity.

Age 5 and up.

Adults $20; Children $7

(Members $15, Members children $5)

Registration: 604.662.4700

Originally posted at We read banned books, and other stuff too… A » tara.