28 July 2010

we're all the same, the men of anger and the women of the page

I promised to publish the second "manifesto" that impressed me. Now, forgive the writing; I will say that the sentence structure leaves something to be desired and sometimes have the philosophical wordiness of an art history textbook. (Have you ever tried to read one of those? Pure torture.) However, the sentiments ring pure: sharing the joy of the written word, recreating the fleeting nature of poetry through their own mobility, spreading the self-improvement institution that is the library, and growing wisdom throughout the world. I'm talking about the Itinerant Poetry Librarian.

In terms of the project’s philosophy: it touches on so many things that to try and sum it up in one neat sentence just isn’t possible. But now that we’ve had some time to sit down and collate our thoughts, if you will, we can tell you that the major issues we touch on, and are seeking to negotiate, are: the idea of poetry as a unique form of human communication, and thus a unique form of knowledge; and the idea of the public library as both recycling-knowledge space and civic space – concepts which we believe can also be used as models for sustainable growth in order to oust ourselves from the current cul de sac that is consumer-led, maximum profit-centred culture.

Surrounding these two core theories is the concept of liminality, both in the architectural sense: the conceptual, ephemeral relationships between people and spatial environments (installation and live performance art as a practice of liminality, library practice beyond physical building environments); and in the post-feminist (Luce Irigaray) and post-structuralist (Michel Foucault) sense of the hybridisation of forms of knowledge, experience and practice, that is, an exploration based on where and how ‘things’ meet, rather than where and how ‘things’ become ‘separate’ or are examined on the basis of differentiation. The blurring of borders and boundaries: that’s what we’re interested in exploring, the periphery of the periphery – or, as one recent new member of the library put it, the event horizon, in fact.

In terms of the ‘liminality’ of our library, this is essentially represented in both the library practice itself – operating without the confines of a building, so we literally install the library pretty much anywhere we manage to get to – and in the ‘liminal’ ethos of the library’s collection of items. The collection ethos – our acquisition policy, seeks to recognise and re-negotiate the ephemeral nature of poetry, in the sense of both its oralcy, and its continued existence in the outer realms of the ‘literature’ world. So, as you see, we’re back to the periphery of the periphery again.

Floating amongst all this are several further conceptual and literal explorations of sustainability: which centre on the core concepts of sharing and redistribution (of resources, knowledge etc.) and collectivity (working together, sharing together). These ideas have been generated, and expanded, throughout the project’s timeline, as we continued to explore, and find ourselves necessarily negotiating, these ideas (and thus their practical applications) in order to quite literally operate the project, in and of itself, and to maintain the ongoing growth and development of the project through time.

All of these ideas feed in to, and seek to help address, what we see as the key issues of our time: recognising the limits of our world’s resources, recognising that we may live ‘alone’ but that we share this world with others, recognising that the answers we seek are best addressed by a collective, civic-mindedness, that places health, education, lifelong learning, and ‘life experience’ above and beyond the pearly gates of simply making money.

Anyone can make money. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Essentially, we see that our work is about re-placing these notions of humanity, these values, back into our cultures: for if we do not, our cultures, our world – we – will not survive. Bertolt Brecht asked “What keeps mankind alive?” All the world over people have been answering his question, but the answers have been getting quieter and more and more subsumed by the burble of consumer-led culture.

It’s time to reclaim the conversation, and sing a song for (wo)mankind once again.

In homage to Brecht, our recent engagement with all things library-related and Germany, and our vision of the library as the curated collective mind and knowledge-space of our species, we’re christening this movement, this mindset, this concept and practice as:


It investigates human development from a systems analysis point of view, starting with the:

D (Data) ---> I (Information) ---> K (Knowledge) ---> W (Wisdom) model.

It encompasses:

Sustainability (Ecology of the Library)
Collectivity (The Commons / Copyright / The Library)
Recycling (The Library)
Alternative Distribution (Publishing / The Internet / The Library)
Redistribution (Publishing / The Internet / The Library)
Liminality (The Library / Poetry)
Civics (The Library as Civic Space / Democracy / Human Rights)
Civility (The Library as Citizen Space / Collective Social Minded-ness / Democracy / Human Rights)
Welfare (The Library as Knowledge Portal for Lifelong Learning and Development)
Society & Culture (The Library as Collective Cultural Archive / Knowledge Curator)

It is about exploring knowledge, and how we ‘attain’ or ‘acquire’ knowledge, as humans, from birth to death, and how this feeds and sustains our evolution, our development, as a species.

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