Articles

A Place for Books in a City Where Little Else is Free

by Hrag Vartanian on February 23, 2012

Two Brooklynites ask you to imagine a truly "public" book kiosk (all images via the artists)

Public libraries are a beautiful and universally loved thing but recently some artists have been engaging with the very idea and exploring its potential to be truly accessible at all times and to all people. Earlier today we posted about a project by John Locke, who transforms almost obsolete phone booths into temporary booksleves, but now two Brooklynites are asking for help to realize their sculptural project that will bring book kiosks into parks and public spaces around Brooklyn.

Artist Leon Reid IV and film producer Julia Marchesi have teamed up to realize their dream of kid-sized Brooklyn brownstones that would allow passersby the opportunity to leave books for others. They are calling it “The Hundred Story House.”

“Julia came to me with a very practical idea to have a place where stray books could be in circulation. I accommodated that idea with a design that we believe fits the look and feel of Brooklyn,” Reid IV says.

While Reid IV’s work is often known for his subversive edge, he curbed that tendency for this program and explains that he tried to think more like an architect than an artist. “My goal for this project is to see adults, children, the elderly all taking part in the sharing of books. I want people to have a memory attached to the experience of reading a book that they received from or gave to ‘The Hundred Story House,'” he explains.

Marchesi shares the same passion to will bring books to more people and hopes this will help. “My goal was simply to collect the books that people leave on doorsteps and front stoops and create a repository where they could be shared in a more organized way. It’s building on a tradition of book sharing that already exists in the community and creating a piece of art as an homage to this tradition,” she says.

Anyone who walks the streets of New York, particularly in Brooklyn, will know that the tradition of leaving books for others is alive and well in a city where few things are free. From spring until autumn, it’s common to find a box of books on a curb with a the word “Free” written on the side. The city’s common love of books is something the project hopes to build upon.

“Success would be to see two strangers in the park browsing for books together, and striking up a conversation,” Marchesi says. “I like the idea of interactive art, and the notion that this is something that people can use in a practical manner, and truly benefit from in ways both tangible (a new book!) and non-tangible (a nice conversation!).”

Is there something about Brooklyn in particular that inspired this project? Marchesi seems to think so. “[Brooklyn] seems to be a haven for writers, from Walt Whitman to Norman Mailer to Jonathan Lethem. I always see Arthur Phillips working away at favorite local coffee shop. (Although I guess it’s only dorks like me who can recognize Arthur Phillips.) Much has been said about Brooklyn and its attraction to writers, and I can’t claim to know precisely why. If not simply just the relaxed anti-Manhattan vibe, maybe it’s the sense of historyand the smaller scale, the city-within-a-city quality that inspires imaginations. Or just it’s a nice place to live, and if you’re going to work from home you want to live somewhere nice.”

The pair are hoping to raise $13,000 and they are less than $900 (or 4%) away from their goal. If you’d like to help please visit their Kickstarter page.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/theresa.giorza Theresa Giorza

    Great idea for ‘stray’ books… could it work in Yeoburg?

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