The library without

Bridget Currie

Ben Howard, Jena Woodburn, [site-works], 2004

Ben Howard, Jena Woodburn, [site-works], 2004

At a time of year when Adelaide is filled with all things artistic shouting for attention, something very quiet is going on in the Hughes Plaza at Adelaide University. Jena Woodburn and Ben Howard’s video projection [site-works], occupies a smallish window of the Barr-Smith Library. The window forms the screen for the projector inside, the projection blending with the architectural environment. At first glance it could almost be an advertisement or poster.

We all know well the immersive sensation of being lost in a library, a world of information without time and physical space. The Barr-Smith is an august institution filled with level after level of narrow mission brown stacks. As a building it is hermetic in the extreme, much of it shut off from natural light and containing many levels of labyrinthine stairwells and corridors. It is the home of the book, the first virtual space.

In this building there is a window, a space for dreaming, for escaping. It can act as a porthole for physical and mental worlds to meet—the outside and the inside, the cerebral world of books and the world we physically negotiate.

window breaches the stronghold of the library’s body
usually it holds tight to its knowledge-store, only allowing out book-sized chunks
we’ve pierced it
inside pours out (is visible)
window is/was empty, transparent.

[site-works] is a skilful computer animation, travelling along trajectories of corridors and planes that can be read like walls, often dense with imagery. Leaves, rock strata, earth, shadows of trees in the wind, textures of the subjects of books and perhaps samplings of actual places. The Dewey Decimal System, a way of categorising all knowledge, of sorting the world into numbers, features as part of the animation, a self-contained system of numbers reducing information to code, not unlike that used in computers. The work contains both the internal logic of its making and the external logic of architecture. Sitting on the garden bed watching the work, the windows are not open but, strangely, you can smell the library.

[site-works], Jena Woodburn and Ben Howard, Barr-Smith Library, Adelaide University, Adelaide Fringe, Feb 25-March 13

RealTime issue #60 April-May 2004 pg. 35

© Bridget Currie; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2004