2. The Serving Library’s physical space houses two collections — of framed objects and bound books. Each of the hundred or so objects is an original material source of an image reproduced in one of our Bulletins or its forerunner journal DOT DOT DOT. Generally flat and framed behind glass, this archive of cultural detritus includes record sleeves, watercolors, woodcuts, polaroids, drawings, screenprints, airbrush paintings, a car number plate, and an ouija board. The other half of the archive comprises those books most frequently mentioned in the journals.
These collections have been gathered over the last decade, expanding piecemeal as they passed through various host venues across Europe and North America until finally settling in Liverpool — first at a storefront in the city’s old mercantile district, and now in residence for the foreseeable future at Exhibition Research Lab (ERL), a gallery space within Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). The long itinerant period allowed us to work out the form and function of The Serving Library by trial and error, with the financial and moral support of countless colleagues and institutions. (Thanks again!)
In Liverpool these collectively-assembled collections finally serve as a toolbox for teaching, decorating the walls in order to be drawn into discussion during seminars with university-level arts students. As today’s educational establishments become evermore corporate and bland, the idea here is to set up an eccentric, engaging counter-environment — a space that is generative *in and of itself.* More on this here and here.
The earliest exhibitions (from 2005) involving one or both of the collections included shows at Kaleri Tartu, Estonia (2005), Lyon Biennial (2007), Kunstverein München (2008), Culturgest Porto (2009), OCA, Oslo (2009), and Green on Red, Dublin (2010). The ever-expanding archive was then incoporated into the larger ecosystem of The Serving Library, which was formally established in 2011, and exhibited as such under the rubric of “Applied Art” within “A Model of The Serving Library” at Kunstverein, Amsterdam (2010), “Re-Applied Art” at Liveinyourhead, Geneva (2010), and in its most intensive version to date, “From the Toolbox of a Serving Library,” a 6-week summer school at The Banff Centre, Canada (2011). All online proof that any of this actually happened seems to have been wiped from the face of the internet, but a few printed documents prevail like this.
Evidence of more recent versions still haunts the web. See for example the record of an eponymous showcase of the two collections at Artists Space in Soho, New York (2012), followed by a smaller show of new material as part of an evolving group show called The End(s) of the Library at Goethe-institut New York Library (2013).
A year later, what by now filled four shipping crates landed in the UK to hang for a season within a seriously odd structure designed by late French architect Claude Parent at Tate Liverpool (2014). Next was a brief spell of “Open Storage” in the foyer of The John Lennon School of Art at LJMU the following spring, with a single object on view every few weeks, then another as part of the group show “Resource” at Bluecoat (2015). Finally we moved properly into our own space at India Buildings (2016), then back to LJMU in residence at ERL (2017), which brings us up to date.