The Discipline of DE

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At the preview opening, several people noted the pristine covers and uncracked spines of many of the books in the library. Jokes were made about how many of the books I’d actually read (most of them, I swear), but it’s true; I am extremely careful with my things. I read books without fully opening them, I rarely fold the page corners, I never leave them open on the table, and I dust the bookcases in my office. But there’s a secret library here too. There are a few books with coffee stains, a few that are a little rough around the edges from having been moved multiple times, and if people find the right books they might find photos stuck between the pages. They might also find the evidence of a phase I went through, sometime in grad school, when I would write down what was happening around me as I read the book (there is a lady in a red jacket sitting across from me on the train, while outside a horse runs by in a field). Part of this project was to find some kind of a balance between owning and looking after a collection, and sharing material objects that I care about. Some of the books are protected – they won’t leave the library. But I’m all right with others coming back with folded pages, cracked spines, and maybe, maybe with someone else’s notes tucked between the pages or written in the margins.

It is a year since I undertook a residency at Elsewhere Museum in North Carolina, which was one of the main inspirations for the Bookcase. On the first day, the introduction consists of watching this early Gus van Sant film with the other visiting artists. I think DE got into my system, and it certainly summarizes my approach to objects and things:


The Author

Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of contemporary art and museum studies at the University of Western Ontario.

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