Academic Session 29: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017

Speculative Libraries  


Nick Thurston, University of Leeds,

The symbolic status of 'the library' – be it in the image of the great libraries of antiquity, the monastic libraries of the Middle Ages or the public libraries of Victorian Britain – has served as both a metaphor and allegory for knowledge, wealth, devotion and permanence. Yet all contemporary libraries are having their rationales, architecture, labour practices and holdings radically changed by the growth of networked computing and information science. What are the many and changing relationships between art practice, art's discourses and libraries? And where, from the first proto-libraries of Sumer to counter-cultural archives of grey or illegal material, do we see the logic of the library reaching beyond the confines of libraries-as-such?

This session brings together historians, critics, artists and activists who will use case-studies to think through specific modern and contemporary responses to these questions, from the fields of art and non-art. More broadly, thinking across a spectrum of examples that stretch from Martha Rosler Library (2005-6) to the open-access file-sharing on, a trend will be traced for making libraries as or within contemporary art projects. As such, through this session's broad discussion, we will also foster a sub-focus on the history, theory and techniques of speculative library-making, considered as the practice of constructing real or imaginary libraries as an artistic act.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Nick Thurston (University of Leeds) Libraries of Disquiet: Temporary public libraries as works of art

Clare Nadal (University of Huddersfield) Theorising and Curating the Artist’s Library: Barbara Hepworth

Nicola Dale (Independent artist) It Stares Us Down: Performances for a reading room

Karen Di Franco (Tate Britain/University of Reading) Description, Invention, Reality

Lara Eggleton (Independent Historian and Art Writer) Reading the Room: Where cooperative activity and (art) libraries meet