In and Out


Marriott Library University of Utah

Books Outside

Books Inside

Case Study
<Public art


To me, library has two complete opposite metaphors: one represents knowledge, freedom and the other is a metaphor of rigid grid system and institutional enclosure. I had to fake up my ID in order to get into library to read books during the Cultural Revolution in China. At that time I was risking to be caught of forgery every day. To prevent risk of getting caught by going in and out, I didn’t mind to eat food by sitting on toilet in library. The experience between the concept of cheating authority, passing the door of law and institution with absolute nervousness and excitement of staying in whole day of reading were such a tragic and ironic daily routine for me. In fact this was how I had my self-taught education during the Cultural Revolution. I nerve thought about this until today when Jim Glenn asked me to write something about the idea of my public project at Marriott Library. Suddenly I realized I have a complex between gaining knowledge as part of my free thought and struggling with structure of the institution that keep the order of the knowledge (which guard our social hierarchy). As Prometheus' fire comes with consequence, my love of books and my youth confused experience run such an opposite extreme that urge me to deform and de-institutionalize of captive order, or simply run away with my precious books. On the contrary, I also realized my contradictory feeling of library and my rebel behavior are solely rely on the formal structure of the institution. I think this well summarizes my fundamental concept of the project here at Marriott Library in the University of Utah, which they can be grouped into two main actual physical artworks:

1, the curve form of Plexiglas panels re-defines the geometric grid form in atrium space
2, the idea of scattering books in and outside of library is really trying to place the books where not suppose to be in the sense of order of library yet in fact is in life. (I am very glad to see people try to pick up the books? and return them back to library when I was installing these books.)
For the atrium work, this time I am very happy to reach my favorite Baroque feel (in music not in art) without any Baroque reference and motif but modern simplicity. I create an up lifting arch space with balance of symmetry without any traditional symmetric gimmicks. Every curve line is different. The two major changes during the installation enhanced the concept even better. All the curve lines address the issue particularly to the vertical space. They set against column vertical straight line, draw graceful big gesture yet confirm vertical architect element at the same time. Both curvature and straight line become distinguish because the definition of the artwork. To me the artwork is quite transcendental, of cause in creek Pagan sense I would put it. It is nature and universal rather then linear and fixed view point just as content of texts from Native American Wisdom:

The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.
When you die, you will be spoken of as those in the sky, like the stars.
We are from Mother Earth and we are going back to Mother Earth.
To touch the earth is the have harmony with nature.

Atrium installation is trying to redefine the grid feeling of the space and sets the motion that hopefully will go beyond.
I love the story people try to pick up and return my books to front desk many times during my installation. It was my initial concept that I wanted to set the books from the rare collection free. I see these books are out there casually as if someone forgot them, someone site on them, try to pick them up sometime, spill coffee on them one day may be?

Thanks note: Madelyn Garrett helped me selecting the books for cast bronze from Marriott Library's rare collection in the early stage of the project. Amber Heaton helped me to get typeset and image plates from her Book Art program that finally used in cast books. Resin books contain many different elements such as rock, flower, leaves and texts etc. One of red resin books includes Chinese paper cut and Heidi Wenzel's little wire birds. This is a special thanks to her contribution of the project. Also two rocks pieces were made in China under the supervision of Sheng Xiaohan  盛小涵, I would like express my gratitude to her involvement as well.


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