When extemporaneous poetry meets improvised art: It Is What It Is. Collisions daily, Monday through Friday.
The Library as Incubator Project team stumbled across the IIWII PROJECT recently, a library-inspired melange of poetry and art created by John Boucher and Aaron Morgan during their workday breaks at Seattle University’s Lemieux Library. The quote above is drawn from the front page of the IIWII PROJECT website, a succinct encapsulation of the endeavor that hints at the creators’ wonderfully strange and snarky weekly exploration of words, pictures, and the library as incubator.
How do you identify yourselves as artists?
John is a writer. Aaron is a drawer.
What is your relationship to libraries?
We have both been library para-professionals for 11 years each. Or more. One tends to lose count.
Have libraries informed or inspired your work?
We’re stuck in the library for hours every day. As such, the environment itself informs and inspires our work. The media that streams through our hands inspires us. The cubicles we sit in inspire us. The behaviors exhibited by co-workers and patrons inspire us.
Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?
We use what we call The IIWII Project as a kind of therapy and survival mechanism. Our work is a kind of release for our imaginations that are otherwise confined or suppressed in service to the mundane routines with which we are tasked on a daily basis as library para-professionals.
What can libraries do to serve artists?
Artists combine existing elements into new forms. That is what we do. Libraries are warehouses of existing forms. They catalog and store human ideas, images, creation, expression. In this way, artists are served quite well by the basic functions and existence of libraries. Libraries could serve artists even better by acknowledging this relationship openly and directly. The Library Incubator Project is great because it attempts to do exactly that. In short: Good artists steal, but great artists borrow — from the library!
[My ideal library]would be a giant lego-shaped bunker with turrets on top that shoots confetti. If Syd Mead could design a library, that’s what I would want. ~Aaron
What specific libraries have played a role in your work? Are there things that stand out to you about these libraries?
Every library we’ve worked in has informed our work. Currently that would mean the Lemieux Library at Seattle University. Not only does Lemieux provide us with an endless stream of ideas and influences, but it is the place where we met.
Aaron was an incumbent worker and John was hired in December of 2010. In this way, the library created the relationship that lead directly to the birth of our project. In terms of stand-out qualities of libraries, we are mostly informed by the environment itself and the library’s collections. We are always exchanging ideas informed by prior conversations that we have with other people through the day, or from materials we encounter, or from stories that we read while processing newspapers, or from the moods we are in, or any number of other details from our daily lives as library para-professionals.
What resources do you use in your library?
We primarily use the library’s computers to write the work and to publish it online. These things are done either between other pressing duties or our lunch breaks.Here’s the process: John writes a piece in the morning and Aaron illuminates/illustrates it during his lunch hour. In the afternoon, John snaps a photo of the finished piece with his iPhone and publishes it to the project’s blog and to Facebook.
We use everything and anything in the library for inspiration. Because the project is fiercely extemporaneous we do not spend much time researching. We mainly feed off of whatever hits us extemporaneously as we are doing our parts of the work.
The ideal artist library would allow me to observe people in secret so that I might witness acts of extreme candor and document them in poetry. Perhaps the space could look like something designed by Mies van der Rohe, but with lots of two-way mirrors.” ~John
How do you find out about events or resources at your library?
We find out about events or resources at our library through our library’s webpage and helpful staff. Also, we work here.
What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?
Aaron: “It means hatching eggs under the circulation desk, exploring and crossing inappropriate boundaries with library staff.”
John: “When an artist publishes, he or she is in essence encasing his or her dreams into a shell, creating a kind of egg-like encapsulation. These dream-eggs sit on library shelves, waiting for curious predators to crack them open and slurp out their gooey, protein-rich innards. ‘Library as incubator’ therefore means to me, in part, that libraries shelter these egg-dreams and keep them warm and available. All the predatory artist need do is stalk the shelves and crack the shells. Energized by what he or she encounters, the artist then produces new forms, new combinations, new chimera for a new age. I hate this answer, though. It is overwrought. I’m sure someone wrote a better answer in a book somewhere. I’ll look for it in the catalog.”
Want more? Visit the IIWII PROJECT online for updates five days a week!
Aaron Morgan was raised in Alaska, moved to Seattle, and has been working in libraries for nearly 20 years. He trained in visual arts at the University of Alaska: Anchorage, and has been drawing and painting since he was a small child. Of himself, he says, “I play in some bands. I’m really lazy. I enjoy long walks on the beach and spending time with my little dog. I Live and work in Seattle. I did a book cover that was actually published.” Visit Aaron online and see more of his art on the Aaron Morgan Art Tumblr and on his blog.
John Boucher claims, “I’m a northwest man. I’ve been one all my long years. As a child I picked cigarette butts out the gravel driveway for my dad. My wage: Five cents a butt. My professional career has basically followed that model. One day my freaky literary stylings might pay off. I might be dead by then. Who knows? I reckon my audience has yet to be born. But I’ll keep at it. I’ll keep scribbling my poems between picking up those cigarette butts. Yes I will.”