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Book Repair Lab: The Banned Books, 2019-Ongoing

Site-specific installation, second-hand books, artist’s book

This work entwines several threads of research about the relationships between public libraries, private universities and prisons in the US. Book Repair Lab began researching the New York Public Library (NYPL) Jefferson Market branch when The New School commissioned a work responding to the university’s archive as part of the exhibition, In the Historical Present, which marked the institution’s centenary. The Lab's research revealed that although they are different institutions, The New School and the Jefferson Market Library share an historical connection; in the 1970s The New School sought to lease the lot at 10 Greenwich Avenue, the site of New York’s Women’s House of Detention, with a plan to raze the prison and build its Center for New York City Affairs in its place. The ground floor of this building (in this picture) was to house an extension of the Jefferson Market Library, which occupied the old court house formerly attached to the prison. However, the removal of the prison also erased the shared history of incarceration and queerness in The Village, a history that is recorded in a bound edition created for the exhibition.

During this research, the Lab came across a discussion between Angela Davis—who was imprisoned at The Women’s House of Detention when arrested in New York—and author Toni Morrison. Davis commented that while incarcerated she had been unable to access books by the author.

There is an extensive list of books that are banned in prisons across the USA (regulated state-by-state). For this installation, the Jefferson Market Library has gathered some of those books, installed on the shelf next to the library lectern. These are accompanied by a bound copy of the archival material that the artist digitized during her research.

Organized and written by Macushla Robinson and Anna Harsanyi, Curators of The New School Centennial Exhibition, In the Historical Present
Supported by Frank Collerius, Manager at the Jefferson Market Library

 
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