For several years the artist Jared Bark has worked with discarded books as an artistic medium - stacking and reshaping them, subjecting them to other interventions and recombining them into monumental totem-like forms. This body of work, however, has never been shown in a library. We're thrilled to be the first, and out of a close collaboration with "Jed" has come our summer exhibition, "Stacked & Altered." The show transforms the central living room space of the library and invites the visitor to rethink their own relationship to books. It also provides an opportunity to highlight some of the artist-altered books in Special Collections.
Below are texts from the exhibition and links to resources about Jared Bark's work and altered books more generally.
The exhibition opens on July 21 at 5:30pm, coinciding with Gallery Night Providence.
It might seem like a mean trick to bring books into a library that can’t be read. But think about how you get information these days or experience the pleasures of reading. The codex form of the book (with leaves of parchment or paper gathered between two rigid covers) was one of the great design innovations in all of history, and for almost two thousand years, while advances were made in methods of production, little changed in how books were “used.”
That is, until very recently. Here we are at another revolution, when all forms of written communication, including the contents of books, can be readily conjured from the cloud. It makes you wonder, what of this ancient technology and what of the words inside?
With little nostalgia for its contents, Jared Bark embraces the material values of this waning technology: He stacks, dismembers, shaves, paints, burns, gilds, abandons, recovers, and allows just the hint of a world within, not gone, but subsumed and out of reach within faint traces - the inky cut edges of the text block - still visible in the strata of the pages.
In the closed community of Bark’s stacks, books still inform, provoke, and inspire; they beg us to ask questions about their future, but they also assume a new and beautiful object status that some might find sublime, while others find truly discomforting.
We invite you to consider your own relationship to books and the future of the form as you enjoy this installation of Jared Bark’s “Stacks of Books” alongside examples of creatively altered books from Fleet Library’s Special Collections.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jared Bark was born in 1944 and became known early in his artistic career for his conceptual photography, collecting, dissecting, and reassembling the output of photo booths around New York City (and eventually in his own studio) in a process not unlike the reconsidered and remade approach to creating his book stacks. Represented in Harold Szeeman's 1969 seminal exhibition When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle Bern, Bark’s work was subsequently shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Tate Modern, London. His work is held in numerous public collections in the U.S. and Europe. A monograph, Photobooth Pieces, was published by Hunter’s Point Press in 2016, while the work seen here is found in the recently published Book of Stacks, Stacks of Books (Chose Commune, 2022). For more about Jared Bark and his work, see www.jaredbarkstudio.com. More about his photo booth work, can be found here.
JARED BARK: BOOKS & WEBSITES TO BROWSE
Stacked & Altered was made possible by the camaraderie, generosity, and varied efforts of the following individuals and groups:
Maria Morris Hambourg
Margot McIlwain Nishimura
With many thanks to other members of the Fleet Library team, RISD Facilities, the Library Programming Committee, and RISD students, faculty, and staff whose inspiring ideas and practical support make library exhibitions and related programming happen.
A sampling of individually altered artists' books from the library's Special Collections can be seen in the first floor display cases as a complement to the "Stacks of Books" by Jared Bark.
An altered book is a form of mixed media that changes a book from its original form into something new. Methods of alteration include painting, drawing, stamping, collaging, cutting, tearing, folding, and embedding things. The resulting object differs in appearance and meaning from the book or books that came before. Sometimes a physical book is used and upcycled, if you will; sometimes the finished product is editioned and printed digitally; sometimes the process results in a one of a kind sculptural work. But every time, the altered book inspires viewers to look closely and explore that book in a new way.
You'll find these books from our circulating collection near the exhibition cases. Feel free to browse through them.