Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sarah Palin's Censored Books At Center Of Art Installation

Warren Neidich: Book Exchange, an art installation, is the season-opening exhibit at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in East Hampton, NY.  The installation's process involves books that Sarah Palin, when she was first elected as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, found objectionable and sought to remove from the town’s public library.

According to Horowitz, Book Exchange allows visitors, through the simple act of trading one book for another, to directly interact with the community and participate in the process by taking a red book to the installation and exchanging it for one of the books on the shelves, which have been signed by Neidich, an American artist who lives in Berlin, as a series of ready-made artworks.

Horowitz notes that “all other criteria are at the sole discretion of the visitor. Each trade will be noted as it happens so that at the end there will be a record of the entire series of incremental changes leading to a complete transformation.”

The show’s centerpiece is a massive steel bookshelf tilted so that it turns freely within a large pedestal structure. The bookshelf functions as a kinetic sculpture defining the surrounding space, as a place to store and display books, and as a framework for organizing and regulating information.

Among the installation’s many themes are how we perceive information, habitual ways of seeing, and order and entropy,

On site.

Red book exchange detail.

The exhibition, which began in May, continues through July 5, 2010.

The exhibit is not without controversy; the list of books that have been claimed to be in Palin's gun-sight has proven to be false. Her only crime, apparently, was that she inquired of the local librarian what her reaction would be if she, Palin, requested that certain books be removed from the library's shelves. Not a Class-A felony. But definitely a Class-A misdemeanor that would have led to a felony if Palin had received the least bit of encouragement to her veiled can-I-get-away-with-it? "rhetorical question" from librarian Mary Ellen Baker. Odds are, she would  have followed through.

Sarah Palin should have never messed with Miss Mary. "She [Palin] asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ’Yup’," Baker (née Emmons) told a reporter at the time. "And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union would get involved, too."

All that has been firmly established is that one book has been consistently lost/removed/stolen/vanished/banished from the Wasilla Library's shelves, Pastor, I Am Gay by Baptist minister Howard Bess, a volume that argues for churches to be tolerant of gays and lesbians.

Whatever the reality, Ms. Palin, through her rhetoric if not her actions, has become a lightning rod for issues of book censorship. Warren Neidich's Book Exchange merely taps into a role she self-assumed with a not-so-innocent question to a not-so-easily buffalo'd librarian. Pardon me: Not so easily moose'd librarian. The Let's Keep Big Government Out of Our Lives poster-girl hinted that government actually had a role to play in what we can or cannot read. Big Grizzly-Mama met Big Brother, shook hands, and declared "you betcha!"

One question about the installation remains: Why must the exchanged books be red? A call to Horowitz's East Hampton shop for comment was answered by an answering machine that refused to answer. Go figure.

Does red symbolize that the books were actually read and not censored? Or is this, as some might suggest, just another Commie plot to undermine the "real" America and sap "real "Americans of their "precious bodily fluids"?


A tip o' the hat to the East Hampton Star.

Shelf Check 279 by PoesyGalore courtesy of Toondoo.

Booktryst salutes Sterling Hayden, aka Gen. Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove (1964).

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