From the Toolbox of a Serving Library

For the next six weeks, I have the immense privilege of participating in Stuart Bailey + David Reinfurt’s thematic residency at the Banff Centre entitled Dexter Sinister: From the Toolbox of a Serving Library.

Bailey and Reinfurt, collectively Dexter Sinister, have brought their peripatetic institution to the Banff Centre. The Serving Library is founded on a consideration of how the role of the library has changed over time–from fixed archive, through circulating collection, to point of distribution. As much about the library as social furniture as it is a specific model, the project ultimately returns to its point of departure: as a place for learning. Over the past couple of years, Dexter Sinister have set up a number of temporary, model versions of The Serving Library in different places, in order to work out its eventual form. Students or other interested communities are often invited to contribute to this discussion. The residency at The Banff Centre will be the most fully-realized version of this to date.

The books and artifacts comprising the library will shortly be on display at the Walter Phillips Gallery. This setting will serve as our classroom and the materials put to use, specifically towards a reconsideration of the Bauhaus foundation course. Given that this original foundation was established in direct response to the social and industrial conditions of the time, why is it still so ubiquitous–largely unaltered–today, a century later? Starting from scratch, what might a reasonable contemporary version look like? In collaboration with Dexter Sinister, participants will take the icon of the Photoshop toolbox (shorthand for any contemporary arts software) as a starting point, and workshops will consist both of addressing this question and attempting to put any answers to practical use.

As a participant, I have proposed to incorporate No Reading After the Internet into the framework of the Serving Library.

No Reading, which I have been coordinating since January 2008 (in collaboration with Amy Lynn Kazymerchyk and Alex Muir since September 2010), is an opportunity to gather and read a text aloud. Though the idea of a reading group isn’t new (consider Rainer Ganahl’s Reading Karl Marx and Kristina Lee Podesva’s D&G Reading Group Or How Do You Make Yourself a Body without Colours?), No Reading nonetheless poses itself as a space for experimental learning and discussion. Simply put, I am suspicious of my own reading abilities and the extent to which my readings are conversant with others. No Reading means to offer a space within which to retrace the steps used in constructing understanding, productively challenging individual and collective ways through the realms of language and interpretation. To participate in No Reading is to invoke an exuberant not-knowing, seeking out moments of collective illumination.

As a project within the Serving Library, No Reading will yoke discussions to texts that have been borrowed from the Serving Library, inducing conversation between the texts and the specific, local, contemporaneous experience of the residency and the library itself. Drawing on my experience as a curator, I will select these texts with careful consideration of the specificity of the residency’s theoretical trajectories, hoping to complement and complicate its educational frame.

I will then translate these events, where written texts have been orally performed and critically meditated upon. However, unlike a review or documentation, which aim for fidelity, I will process these critical reflections through the tools of our contemporary, Photoshop-inspired foundational toolbox. These translations will take care to be considered, empathetic meditations that productively reflect on the forms of community and publicness that emerge from the residency.

Situating No Reading within the Serving Library will allow me to investigate how collective forms of reading and writing can extend Dexter Sinister’s exploration of contemporary publishing. The library will be activated as a space to generate material for future circulation, moving beyond representation by demanding translations between a source text, our experiences and a future reading.

Now that I am here, I realize how mutable these best laid plans are, but this is where I will begin.


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