Collins Memorial Library exhibit explores memory


True confession time: I am an unrepentant “hoarder” (not my favorite term) of books. The bibliophile in me quells at the culling practice of libraries, which “decommission” old books for a variety of reasons. The University of Puget Sound’s Collins Memorial Library is undergoing one such culling of their stock, taking books and bound volumes of academic journals (apparently, these are now available in digital form) out of commission.

Many of these volumes, however, are being repurposed or upcycled for a variety of projects of both artistic and utilitarian nature. Many volumes have been used in the library’s new art installation called “Memory Lame: An Unforgettable Installation” by Jessica Spring and Scott Gruber. The exhibit is a rumination on the ways that humans have used a variety of tools to aid memory. The best examples are some of Spring’s banners that are decorated with images and mnemonic sayings that people use to encode valuable information. One, for example, has a giant picture of a Phillip’s-head screw and bears the slogan “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey,” a saying that people us to figure out which way to turn a bolt or screw.

In one corner of the space, there are pencils, paper and tape so that visitors to the exhibit can write their own memory sayings and tape them to the wall. (I contributed “red touch yellow, kills a fellow,” a way to remember the difference between a poisonous coral snake and a non-poisonous king snake.)

The central part of the exhibit is a wishing well made of books. It has an actual water fountain in the top. I presume that this “Fountain of Knowledge” was made by sculptor Scott Gruber. There is nothing subtle about it. More books, skillfully sawn to resemble waves, form a faux book-brook that ambles through the space. More of these wave forms are visible through the window, laying outside in the ivy.

This exhibit presents some interesting concepts and it is good that the decommissioned books are getting some form of use (though I’d rather see them remain intact and be given away to people that might appreciate them as books). Overall, however, the exhibit does not pack much of a visual punch. Spring’s banners are subtle and muted. Gruber’s book constructions are little more than a clever, literalistic gimmick. The fountain and the brook also don’t seem comfortable with the beige carpet that covers the floor. The show is not visually strong enough to animate the space in which it is installed. This is a show that needs to be appreciated with the mind – fair enough, since it is in a library.

The show opened Oct. 22, but the artists’ reception will take place Dec. 5. The installation remains on view through Jan. 25.

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