We’re currently preparing for a book art show, but a really special one. It’s been my dream to present this show in London some time. “Prospero’s Library” began as an idea from Moscow-based writer and artist Mikhail Pogarsky, who imagined a project inspired by both the character of Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the film Prospero’s Books by Peter Greenaway. Imagining Prospero’s magical “library of everything” was the starting point to collect together an exhibition that is ever-expanding and transforming, as different books and items are added to it, and it magically manifests itself in different places on the globe. “Prospero’s Library” truly resembles the original library of the magician Prospero in that, like his collection, it has travelled far and wide. The first manifestation of the library was made in the Zverevskiy Center of Contemporary Art in Moscow. After that the show toured to various regions including Yasnaja Poliana, Tula where Tolstoy lived; culminating in a presence at the Moscow Central House of Artists. Further tours were made in Russia, and to Catania and Milan.
Finally, the library is in London. And it’s taken some time to do this because the project is too “odd” for London. It’s not really trendy, it’s not very commercial and it’s not really conceptual either. And we didn’t event try to get funding for it. How on earth do you answer the ACE questions about “public benefit” to something like this. Who can answer that? Approaching the various Russian cultural organisations in London plunged us into scenes from Bulgakov or Gogol. Not being affiliated with any university art department meant we could not use them, which would be the easy way to get a show like this out there. Now that we have Studio 75 though, the time has come. The studio is small but not smaller than a book fair and the show has been at Moscow Artists book fair. In any case, the show changes every time.
Artists books are strange and interesting things. Often I balk at “text art” for a number of reasons not least of which is cultural imperialism (more about that at a later post). But the history of the artists book is so fascinating, so underground and quirky and subversive, and the books themselves – from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience to the work of the Lettrists and Fluxus, are just so brilliant! Our project is interesting because it brings together quite a lot of very different kinds of book art, from Russia, from Italy, from the great diaspora that is London – as well as different forms: uniques, multiples, digital books, book installation.
I hope it’ll be as fun and interesting for the audience as it is for us.