It’s always a thrill to add a collection to the Library, whether this is an archive or a set of printed works. Individual items have their place but we are curators of large holdings and we like bulk-buying whenever possible! Just before Christmas we were delighted to acquire a set of the publications of Information as Material (iam), which was established by the English artist Simon Morris in 2002. Based in the North of England, iam operates as a collective of writer-editors and as an independent imprint that publishes work by artists who use extant text-based material — selecting it and reframing it to generate new meanings. By doing this they disrupt the existing order of things. and create new art and new work out of old. The imprint’s activities involve writing, publishing, exhibiting, curating, web-based projects, lectures and workshops. The editorial team is Craig Dworkin, poet and Professor of English at the University of Utah, Simon Morris and Nick Thurston, a poet and artist who teaches at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.
We discovered Information as Material through the fantastic exhibition, ‘Reading as Art’, which was curated by Simon at Bury Art Museum last year. We hold a number of collections that are concerned primarily with how artists respond to texts and the printed word, not least the publications of Book Works, an art commissioning organisation specialising in artists’ books, spoken word and printed matter. Iam complements these collections but also adds something new. The range, quality and diversity of iam’s publications touch on areas of the Library’s particular strengths – annotating and removing texts, collecting and curating, and the materiality of reading. More importantly the works have a charm and appeal all of their own. Who of us isn’t immediately drawn to I Sparkie, a work devoted to the life of a budgerigar called Sparkie Williams, whose vocabulary of 531 words made it the most talkative bird in the 1964 Guiness Book of Records; or to Re-writing Freud: the Interpretation of Dreams, which contains all of Freud’s words, but randomly redistributed and not in the order he intended; or the poster ‘Reading Matters’, an exhibition in itself which takes place everywhere and anywhere that the poster is on show, and the text of which records the relative molecular weights of the neurotransmitters activated when it is read.
We’re very pleased to add this new collection to our holdings and look forward to further collaboration with iam. In the meantime, we have a fairly big cataloguing job to do.