Beyond the Bookshelves exhibition. Curating by curatorial curiosities

I have been working hard on curating my exhibition called Beyond the Bookshelves, at the Old College Library, Chelsea College of Art & Design.

It has been an exciting, interesting and busy time so far working on curating this exhibition. I have met many different people along the way, ranging from artists to an army colonel!

Beyond the Bookshelves exhibition e-vite

Beyond the Bookshelves is an exhibition showing the work of three artists who explore the themes of text and books in their work. The exhibition space being used is the Old College Library at Chelsea College of Art & Design which was the purpose built college library for the Royal Army Medical College in the early 1900s.

The exhibition displays artists’ books and book arts made by book arts artist and painter Julie Caves, objects, sound and film clips from a live performative soundwork by sound artist and photographer Tansy Spinks and a specifically built display cabinet with book material by typographer and designer Phil Jones.

The curator has deliberately chosen three artists who work with different art forms and the exhibition also addresses the curatorial issues arising from displaying an exhibition in a non gallery space that has another daily function, as the silent reading room of the library.

cabinet by Phil Jones including two books - Tunnel Book and Staircase

The Space

Editor Norman Cousins wrote that, ‘A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life’.

This is certainly true of the Old College Library at Chelsea College of Art & Design which is the space chosen by the curator to show the exhibition Beyond the Bookshelves.

The curator began to be interested in this space, after assisting artist Tansy Spinks with her performance piece Silent Zone, Site and Sound  which was part of University of the Arts Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation Research Conference – Contested Sites/Sights. During that day, the space became an inspiring and thought provoking place to be and parts of its history and current function indeed started to come to life. This occurred for example, since the artist was using William Morris’s The Aims of Art and John Ruskin’s The Mystery of Life and its’ Arts, both of which are housed in the library as part of the extensive collection. This created a link with the wider field of the history of art and the function of the space.

Book Alphabet Book X-Y spread from artists' book by Julie Caves

Curator’s Choice

The process of putting this exhibition together has not only been a vehicle to looking beyond the bookshelves and discovering the history of the space, but also a way of exploring the process of curating and the multi facetted role of the curator. In order to create this exhibition, the curator fulfilled the roles of researcher, writer, editor, logistics project manager, artistic director and negotiator. The artists showing their work in this exhibition were chosen because of their direct links to the curator and working with each of them has marked important points along her career journey. The curator met book arts artist and painter Julie Caves during a short course completed in Independent Curating, at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The curator met sound artist and photographer Tansy Spinks at a Camberwell College of Arts led trip to the Venice Biennale. This lead to the curator assisting Tansy with her live performative sound work Silent Zone, Site and Sound which was discussed in a previous blog post of mine that you can see here. The curator was introduced to the work of Phil Jones (a designer and typographer carrying out a PhD, the thesis title of which is The bones of the book: Schematic structure and meanings made from books) by Tansy Spinks at the London College of Communication PhD research show Research in Progress: Pushing Boundaries and Practices. You can read more about that exhibition which I wrote about here.

I will post more updates about the exhibition as I get closer to the private view evening. Currently I am working on liaising with the library staff and making sure everything is completed logistically so that the exhibition can take place – including the risk assessment and so on, getting hold of the necessary equipment for the show from technical staff, whilst I am writing and editing content for the accompanying booklet that I am making for the exhibition which I will then format, print and bind myself.

Further Exhibition Private View information

Chelsea College of Art & Design 16 John Islip Street London SW1P 4JU

Location within building

Old College Library 1st Floor, Block C Access through main college entrance on Atterbury StreetWheelchair access: Yes

 Library Opening Hours

Monday       09.30 – 19.30

Tuesday       09.30 – 19.30

Wednesday 10.00 – 19.30

Thursday     09.30 – 19.30

Friday          09.30 – 17.00

Saturday     10.00 – 15.45

Sunday             Closed

By tube: Pimlico (Victoria Line) By bus: 2, 36, 185 or 436 bus from Victoria to the stop before Vauxhall Bridge and walk left along Millbank, or along John Islip Street; 88 from Oxford Circus to John Islip Street; 87 from Aldwych to Millbank. C10 from Elephant & Castle to John Islip Street. 360 from Elephant & Castle to Pimlico tube station.
By bicycle: Cycle racks are located on Atterbury Street. TfL Cycle hire docking station is located on Rampayne Street (off Vauxhall Bridge Road).

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