Inside Out

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Please visit and contribute to the Inside Out website.

Curatorial Statement

The location of people in space is often defined by maps. This holds true especially for the library. Here, people not only navigate the larger system of a building, but  also use maps to determine the precise location of specific texts. Inside Out takes the customary library experience, which is visual and goal-oriented in terms of seeking specific books, and adds a layer of personal, subjective experience to the process of using the library. In various parts of the library, with most locations generated from the content of brief narratives, an image is displayed. Five works by two visual artists are used in the project, and each stands for an affective or place-based category. Below the works is an accompanying library-style tag, printed with the text of a brief true narrative or anecdote about the library. The intent of this show is to make people more attuned not only to a destination, but also to their immediate surroundings, and to share their own subjective experience with an anonymous but relatable other. While stories provide the arc, the visual images evoke, with more immediacy, the emotional theme linking groups of narratives.

In juxtaposing a new kind of map with those already posted and online, I looked at several aspects of library processes. There is the process of comparative checking that’s repeatedly throughout one’s search for a book involves referring to online numbers and physical tags and labels on the shelves. It’s also interesting to consider the routine that people often perform throughout the library: those who specialize in a certain subject, or certain type of work, often visit the same areas.

Because of the continual checking involved in finding a book for the first time – first confirming the stack number, A or B, and then likely looking again at the long call number – Inside Out works within the library in using multiple components. A map of library installations was e-mailed to participants, notifying them of a mapped overview of the floors and providing specific row numbers. The second round of confirmation may also occur to see which artistic work is paired with a short narratives. This potential means of encounter taps into the process of looking up books in the library.

If people view the images and tags only incidentally, as they pass through the library, Inside Out addresses the second category of library use mentioned above: the routine. Making the familiar heightened and strange, as well as intensely subjective, can be accomplished if a student inadvertently visits the stacks to find an unexpected visual intervention in the space. The project also works for those who may visit a section for the first time and encounter an artwork/narrative: just as the stories included in this project stem for memories specific to the rock library, Inside Out may become part of students’ of staff associations with a specific place.

This project is designed to work within the micro-system of a University library itself, and provokes an awareness of what it means to be able to use an extensive library such as the Rock. Who would have associations with this library aside from those working and studying at Brown? Presented during the beginning of finals, Inside Out calls attention to how the life of students becomes linked to certain places and rituals throughout school. However, one recurring element in the stories I read was a universality of libraries: their mysteriousness, expansiveness and unique characteristics of creepiness and surpise. 


 All artworks shown in the library were shown as reproductions, to limit any damage to the works.

 A print by Lauren Abman represents the place-based marker. Based on a Russian pillow design, an object Abman saw every day while living in Russia to hone her printmaking skills, the uneven square conveys the sensation of a handmade terrain. The black and white work successfully serves as a repeated motif that is welcoming and quickly recognizable.

Abman’s second print, made by carving designs into an old linoleum tile, conveys a sense of well-worn, well-lit comfort. The print evokes a sunny windowsill; ordinary objects, while alone, are warmly and delicately rendered. Connection, happiness, and memory and represented by this print. Both of Abman’s prints were made in 2009.

Four photos by Jhon Clavijo are markers of a range of other emotional narratives.

A horizontally long photo of semiabstract ceiling, lamps and fans dates to 2011. In the Rock, this image is paired with stories of being alone, isolated, yet feeling a certain comfort there. Starkly white in the center but moving toward blue in the corners, this photo appears to be taken in a recognizable space: ceiling, windows, wall. Yet it also provokes thought into what else is coexistent with such spaces when they are viewed from a new angle. The photo evokes a feeling of being lost in space, floating, alone, but not cold.
An untitled photo from 2010 is a black and white image of a woman in Kennedy Plaza. Lights around her expand into starry points, but she seems conscious of being both watched and alone. The low viewpoint not only allows for the portrayal of more of the bus terminal, but also adds to the feeling of discomfort conveyed by the woman’s posture. This photo is paired with stories of fear, discomfort, or unease.
‘EyE Jst Wnt 2B Lovd 4 Hu I AM,’ 2007, is an image of a woman in black standing in front of a building in the process of being torn down.  The colors of the building extend to the horizontal edges of the photo, providing a field in front of which the figure partially blends with shadow. The structure, with one wall still partially intact, exists as two things at once, but also nothing at all functional. With its structural planes obscured by debris, the photo is an image of involvement in, and distance from, a sense of confusion and disorder.
A final untitled image from 2008 frames legs by a window, and the black receiver of a telephone lying on the floor. The photo, like its companions, depicts isolation. In choosing this work to evoke claustrophobia, close quarters, and solitude, I focused on its form. The larger rectangle of the image frames progressively smaller borders transcribed by the chair and wall, phone and legs, the wood paneling and the line of the floor. Not only is the space of the photo telescoping, but the proximity of the figure to the window relates also a sense of closeness. With upper body included, the window would serve as an exit point for the person’s gaze and the viewer’s own. However, with our scope of vision restricted to the legs, we are trapped in the room. 

Library Stories

After attempting unsuccessfully to blindly solicit stories during spring break, my method of collecting library narratives was to email different people at Brown. I included an explanation, several brief pointed questions, and then one open-ended query about library stories. I emailed only students whom I knew.

I collected responses, picked those I found to be most relevant to the project, and traced patterns that I found between the narratives. Grouping the stories by type and relationship, I allowed some categories to expand or shrink to pair just a few specialized emotions.

Stories are printed on tan paper and attached to library tags. The physicality of the works, both fitting in and providing new information, is important to the pieces fitting in the spaces in which they are installed. 

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