Friday, November 16, 2007

Martha Rosler's Library

The Martha Rosler Library has arrived in Paris at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in the 2nd arrondissement. This fantastic exhibition/installation of the artist Martha Rosler’s personal library, was conceived with the help of e-flux the online network for disseminating information about contemporary art. Most prominently e-flux is known for its email mailings wherein at least 3-5 emails a day arrive in your inbox bearing news/openings/prizes from around the globe.

I had read about this project when it opened in New York in late 2005. Somehow I missed it and totally regretted it. I read about its movement to Germany and then alas, a surprise e-flux came in a couple of weeks ago announcing its arrival in Paris. The library consists of nearly 7800 volumes all from Rosler’s collection, mostly in English, and includes catalogues, essays, documentation in subjects ranging from art, theory, women’s studies, science, politics, revolution, poetry and fiction. When I arrived yesterday NPR was playing on a radio and there were a few people sifting through the stacks or sitting at a table in one of the many chairs provided, and that, essentially is the point of the installation. It’s a chance to hang out, browse an incredible diversity of books, listen to the radio and read. It also serves as a reminder to those who are more used to reading/studying/researching etc., on the Internet, to recall a time of discourse, physical research and the power of printed text. The installation has a comfortable, local library feel as well housed within the beautiful stone building, which also holds classes and research facilities for University students.

Martha Rosler is an artist who lives and worked in Brooklyn, New York. She emerged onto the contemporary art scene in the 1970s, as a pioneering feminist artist, for the most part, but not entirely. Some early, well-known works were photo collages that mixed scenes of the Vietnam War in modern settings of domestic bliss. Picture an image form Life Magazine, of soldiers in full combat with guns in shooting position superimposed into a perfectly suburban living room; or a perfectly manicured woman pulling back the drapes in her home only to reveal a black and white image of the Vietnamese jungle and bloody scenes of war. They were haunting. Rosler has always maintained a body of work that deals with text and image, pop culture and the underbelly of war, poverty, and struggle.

For Americans and Anglo’s in Paris who love to read I recommend checking out Martha Rosler’s Library. It is a unique opportunity to explore not only the mind of this great artist, but scan through numerous books, many of which you may not have heard of before and which could open up new areas of interest.

Martha Rosler’s Library, November 14-January 20, 2008
INHA, 2, rue Vivienne, 75002

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