by Bryan Voell

LoveJordan is a collaboration between British artists Jonny Love and Samuel Jordan. Their work is beautifully intricate and provocative, existing in the realms between social commentary and personal revelation. Everything they do is fascinating, but it was their sculpture work that initiated this interview: complex, thought-provoking constructions inspired by questions about technology, collections, space and the emotional role of libraries in our lives.

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): So much of your work directly or indirectly references libraries, more specifically how our minds and consciousness tend to resemble curated collections of thoughts, memories and states of being. What initially spurred your interest in the library as metaphor?

Jonny Love (JL): Almost a decade ago when I was a fresh faced 20 year-old, I bumbled around London exploring, photographing, enjoying its oddities and energy. I would often find myself in forgotten side-streets where dusty old book shops and antique sellers displayed their wares and I would wander in, not to buy, but instead to be part of them. Staring, touching, smelling age and decay. My favorite street was just off bustling Covent Garden. A book shop stood amongst period map sellers and antique bust specialists and invited me in to browse an odd coupling of old machines and far gone books.

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The Archives

I was interested in a particular section which housed old hand written journals. A whole shelf of personal thoughts and experiences propped up by an ancient typewriter and what I can only assume was part of an American 50’s television set. I sat for a while flicking through the books. Some had clearly happy lives while others were less fortunate. I literally had in my hand a year of someone’s life. It was fascinating. Some were water damaged and whole pages were a strange inky tide. The more I thought about the books, the more I thought how strange it was to record yourself in such a way. I spoke to the gentleman behind the counter who confessed to have been gifted a journal every year by his mother, but couldn’t tell her he had never written anything in any of them. “I guess I have nothing I want to say,” he explained, slightly embarrassed. Years later I would invoke trips like these and try to capture abstract feelings in my library works. I suppose a little of him is in my works, unable or unwilling to fill the pages.

LAIP: Do you see your work as a commentary on (or celebration of) the importance of libraries in our culture? 

JL: Across England the death bell seems to be ringing for our libraries. More and more are closing and redeveloped. The masses favor paid-for books on expensive gadgets over borrowing a real book FOR FREE. Sadly still, less and less seem to be reading at all. Libraries should be celebrated and lofted high as places of intrigue and adventure. It is a place to fall in love with both stories and characters. To discover other worlds and better understand ourselves and others. They are stunning both inwardly and outwardly and have a special soul. I hope my works are seen as a celebration of our libraries. They may be small, but they are just as big a world and I hope if joy is felt after seeing and hearing about one of my pieces, then that joy can be transferred to your local library or book store.

Libraries should be celebrated and lofted high as places of intrigue and adventure. It is a place to fall in love with both stories and characters. To discover other worlds and better understand ourselves and others.

The Writer’s Block Library

The Writer’s Block Library

LAIP: The “Space/No Space” series of drawings explores “the human desire to fill empty spaces.” What do you make of the increasing dependence on digital archives in our society?

JL: At the risk of sounding like a hoarder – I like things. A lot of things. I work best in utter chaos and live happiest in organized chaos. It is a strange complex we humans have developed. I’m sure cave dwellers weren’t collecting rocks and bones to show off to neighbors or to satisfy a need. Physical objects, however, do not last forever, no matter how many times we tamper with something or shield it. Even mountains crumble. There was much talk of physical books dying out as ebooks excite a world hungry for the newest technology. I do not think this is the case. I think the vast majority of people need physical objects to satisfy themselves, to show accomplishment. The increasing dependence of digital archiving is probably a good thing. As the years roll on, technology is being developed and refined, ideas will be explored, accepted or rejected and digital archives will be superseded by things we can’t even imagine right now. Those journals in the book shop will be ashes lost in time, while archived materials will hopefully be read generations into the future. But still the people will want to own a book.

 

BryanVBryan Voell is currently the Local Arts Librarian for the Johnson County (KS) Library. He received his MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and has worked for public, academic, and research libraries in various capacities since 1997. He is also a collage artist and you can see more of his art here.

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