Artist’s Atheneum is a reading room installed in the library by Nandita Raman in conjunction with the ICP-Bard/MFA Thesis Exhibition. If you haven’t already, stop in and spend some time enjoying it.
Liz Sales: What inspired Artist’s Atheneum?
Nandita Raman: In my experience, research for projects can become an insular and convergent process. I have benefited from having conversations about my ideas with friends who are writers, filmmakers, scientists or active thinkers, irrespective of their professions. They have introduced me to films, books, music and other research that has helped in opening up my practice. I wanted to bring this conversation/ exchange, which feeds into our life and work, to the foreground, and make it the piece itself. This coupled with the fact that our library at ICP does not have books other than that on art and photography due to constraints of space, inspired me to install a chaise where readers could put their feet up and pull out a book from a selection of about 200 spines of different subjects, shapes and sizes.
LS: What is the role of reading in your personal art practice?
NR: Reading is a part of my everyday. I like to read a variety of subjects and find myself to be a distracted reader, going through two or three books at a time and not finishing any! Its one of those things where I feel the appetite only grows as I read more. So with an extensive list of books recommended by such amazing people for this installation, as a reader, I surely have set myself up for a challenge.
LS: How did you decide which titles to include?
NR: I chose the recommenders and asked them to select up to 3 books not necessarily related to art, this is where my control ceased. The selection of books was really up to them. I haven’t been able to include rare or expensive books due to budget constraints. It is a self-funded project with support from ICP library that has generously acquired and loaned photography/ art related books.
LS: How does your instillation compare to your original vision? Are people interacting with the material in a way you expected? If not, what has been surprising?
NR: On the day of the opening, some people asked me if the chaise was for use or for viewing. It made me think about how we distance ourselves from art objects out of reverence or their preciousness. Concerns related to preservation of the object dominate our encounter with it, in a museum or a gallery. I’m thinking about the difference between objects for experience and objects for art while hoping that people actually use this insertion in the library whether or not they consider it art.
LS: As your installation is interactive, how do you hope it will evolve over the course of the exhibition?
NR: I’m not sure if installation is an appropriate word for this reading corner. I have struggled with that word while using it to describe this project. The word Installation has connotations of stasis in it. I hope the opposite for this project. (How I am avoiding using installation here!) I would love to see what books are pulled out and left on the table or misplaced back into the shelf. There is a notebook for writing/ drawing on the shelves, recommended by Connie Berry, I’m curious about its use.
LS: Will the Artist’s Atheneum live on after the exhibition closes?
NR: I am making a blog that will have the list of books with annotations and biography of the recommenders. This way not only will it live after the exhibition closes but also be accessible to people regardless of the physical location of the work. Other than this, I am exploring possibilities for this installation to travel or be part of a permanent space with public access.