Today, everyone in my studio art course Contemporary Art & Ideas were presenting their photo slideshows on the Situational Library project. We were asked to install a public, experimentally interactive library that emulated the community mini-libraries that popped up during the Occupy Movement in its tent cities.
I was immediately enraptured by first year student and fellow classmate Emilia “Emi” Serna’s installation of a ‘floating tent’ library in the Warren Olney Hall and was left with a great curiosity. I asked her to take me to see it after class and we walked on over to her dormitory.
Seeing the floating tent was quite the experience. Working under a time constraint, I snapped admittedly-shoddy iPhone photos as Emi walked around explaining the purpose of her library.
The purpose of her public library was to recreate an familiar environment for children and overly imaginative people who hide under their blanket to read an embarrassing book at night. The blanket also acted as a tent cover, so interested passersby would have to crawl onto their bellies to experience her environment.
Emi had strung fishing lines she bought at the hardware store to the ceiling lamps and structural beams around the furnished common room of Warren Olney. Being of petite stature, she said she had to climb up on a chair that was stacked up on a table in order to reach the lamps.
The fishing lines were attached to the center and four corners of a light blue fabric sheet, creating a ‘floating tent’ sensation. She had also attached two portable lights underneath the first sheet as a lamp source for readers and laid out a second blue sheet to act as a floor mat.
The embarrassing ‘library books’ she placed under the tent cover included some graphic novels and corny harlequin romances. A fuzzy Inuyasha dog ear headband is set over the manga copy of the same name so readers could satisfy their inner obsessive otaku.
Amongst the collection was a notebook with a pretty peach-colored and floral-print cover entitled “Diary,” and a cardboard sign next to it asking people to write down a secret.
Much to Emi’s chagrin, no one has written anything in it yet.
It was interesting seeing a floating tent in the middle of the dormitory. Although the common room is the first thing students and visitors would see if they walked through the front door, they would rush by it to get to their rooms without a glance — which likely accounted for why Emi hadn’t seen much interaction whenever she’d checked it.
The interior is albeit a little too traditional and doesn’t scream ‘casual.’ Sitting in there simply isn’t as relaxing when the oil painting of a judgmental Victorian man over the fireplace mantle is staring down at you and your crossed sweatpants-clad legs.
As all artists do, Emi thought her installation still had room for improvement. She noticed that the floating tent was hanging a bit too low, likely the result of the fishing lines being stretched out by the weight of the fabric sheet overnight. If she were to do another public art work similar to this one, she said she would roll out an actual floor mat for a more comfortable lounging experience.
Surprisingly, the library hasn’t been taken down yet. So I recommend anyone with access to Warren Olney to go and experience lying down and reading a tacky romance novel underneath the floating tent while it’s still up.
And maybe scribble a secret into Emi’s diary too.