Image of a book art project in Clemson's library

Here in Cooper Library we see a lot of books. But we don’t usually see them as artwork. However, a new project by students in Professor David Detrich’s Advanced Sculpture class has turned some of our books into thoughtful stacks of art.

Library Dean Maggie Farrell reached out to the Art Department with the idea of getting more artwork into the library. “Cooper Library is an ideal location for art displays as we serve as the intellectual and cultural center of campus. Art facilitates conversation about ideas and opens our imagination complementing our role as center where knowledge is created and exchanged,” said Dean Farrell.

She and Professor David Detrich settled on the Book Intervention Project as the first one to be on display in the library. Dean Farrell says, “This is the first art intervention within Cooper Library and we are looking forward to hosting more art events and displays.”

“The project was very unorthodox when you consider how art typically shows up in public venues. The standard is to hang artwork that complements the interior of a space. The work the students implemented into the space challenged the conventions of this practice. I commend Dean Farrell for taking the risk of letting us do the project which I feel brings a different type of discourse and conversation to bear on the practice of implementing art in public spaces,” said Professor David Detrich.

The seven MFA students, Hannah Cartee, McKenzie Fletcher, Erik Reed, Rebekah Warren, Amber Eckersley, Deighton Abrams and Haley Floyd, developed their versions of Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project. The project involves sorting through a collection of books, picking out particular titles, and eventually arranging the books into groups so that the titles could be read in sequence, from top to bottom.

Group picture of book intervention project students

During the month-long research and creation period, the students used library books and carts to create their sculptures on-site in Cooper. Creating art in the library was a different experience than studying in the library. “Though the students were inherently familiar with the library, the project demanded that they see it with a fresh set of eyes. Given the broad scope of the project, they experienced aspects of the library not formerly known to them,” said Professor Detrich.

The students each had to develop three versions of sorted books and a rationale for use of a particular location within the library. The students received feedback from a group of library faculty and did some field testing in the spaces.

The sculptures were installed on Dec. 1 with critiques and final review on Dec. 3. The sculptures will remain throughout January 2016. The library is planning to digitally archive the exhibit.

Another art project in Cooper Library is planned for spring 2016.