Towers of Books

Posted by on March 1, 2012

The books are my friends – I think that has been made clear in this post and this one and even this one. However, I am not at all precious about the actual book. I am happy to send an outdated or unpopular book to another fate. I am even willing to sacrifice a book that could be read for the greater good. These two installations use books to make a statement, but render them useless to be read.

Recently opened in Washington DC, the Ford’s Theatre Center of Education and Leadership, features a tower of books about Abraham Lincoln 34 feet high. The tower showcases only about 6,800 different titles, of the over 15,000 that have been published since his death. This mass of paper symbolizes that the last word about the 16th US president will never be written.

It is mind boggling – in the process photos you can see that the tower is built around an existing column, but it is still 6,500 different titles about the same guy.

On the center’s website there is not an artist or designer listed, but someone came up with this awesome idea and made it happen.

Seeing these photos reminded me of another tower of books that I saw in Prague a few years ago.

This work, ‘Idiom’ is by the Slovakian artist Matej Kren. It was first exhibited at San Paulo’s International Biennial in 1995 and is now a permanent instillation at the main branch of  the public library in Prague. It is simply hundreds and hundreds of books stacked in a cylinder. The tear-shaped opening in the side allows the viewer to look inside where Kren has placed a mirror both on the floor and on the ceiling. Thus, the books are reflected on themselves again and again, the stacks seem to climb and fall endlessly in both directions.

Kren has used books in other works, but ‘Idiom’ is the most well known. It is a little off the tourist track and you have to look for it even once you are in the library, but if you are a book lover, the experience of seeming to be surrounded by books into infinity is worth a little trouble.

First Ford’s Theatre Center photo by Maxwell Mackenzie from here – others by Laura Keene from here

Idiom photos by Per Ryolf from here because my photos from the library didn’t turn out…

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