In connection with the group-exhibition Republished: Questioning Boundaries at das weisse haus in Vienna, which opens tomorrow, I found the great project Added Value by Stephanie Syjuco which took place last year at the The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Added Value. An Alternative Book Sale
Statement Stephanie Syjuco
What’s in a label, and how do we value (or even devalue) different categories of information? When invited to create a work using the stream of almost one million used books donated to the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, I was particularly drawn to the idea of low-value books—books that are sold back to the public at anywhere from $1 to $5 to support the SFPL’s public programs. Titles range across a spectrum of categories and interests. Some books are outdated (manuals for machines that don’t exist anymore, old travel books, encyclopedias from yesteryear), some are great titles but too worn to resell at higher value, while others run the gamut from pulp fiction to disproved sociology. What would it look like to “curate” from these titles and reorganize them in such a way to “add value” (artistic/cultural/critical), in order to highlight new meanings and raise more money for the SFPL?
There is political potential in reevaluating our knowledge and rethinking “what we know.” Placing a book on the shelf labeled “art” is different from taking that same book and placing it on the one labeled “revolution.” Categories and labels reinforce or explode hierarchies of meaning, and Added Value is meant to provide a playful yet critical look at how we can challenge these structures. By inviting two collaborative groups well-versed in examining hierarchies of power—the Prelinger Library and Related Tactics—to join me in reorganizing the thousands of books under new categories, my goal was to expand the artistic platform, and let each group’s critical lens intervene in the process.
And when is a book not a book, but an art object? As part of Added Value, we have commissioned eight artists to reconfigure, reuse, recollage, and remake books into new artworks, all to be sold to the public at affordable prices in the Re-valuation Station. Art has always had the power to redefine, and by manipulating these low-value tomes, the artists have also changed their status, imbuing them with cultural value and raising the stakes.
We invite you to browse, question, and discover new meaning in all these forms of added value, and, via the Related Tactics sticker project Shelf Life, to take these ideas back home to reorganize your own libraries.
Re-valuation Station Artists include: Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Cliff Hengst, Dionne Lee, Jenny Odell, Marcela Pardo Ariza, Sofie Ramos, Leila Weefur and Lindsey White.