Louise O'Hare

Ex-library Book, 2012, Clockwork gallery, Berlin

Sara MacKillop

Sara MacKillop Available Soon

Sara MacKillop, Ex-library Book, 2012. Installation view, Clockwork gallery, Berlin,
as part of a series curated by Emma Astner


AVAILABLE SOON. Sara MacKillop dryly insists that it made perfect sense to produce an advert – the clock tower is an advertising space. Such literal mindedness is characteristic – consider the formal logic of works such as 10 in 12, a 10 inch record in a 12 inch sleeve,Faded Paper, where sugar paper posters and flyers part bleached by the sun are hung to further fade in the daylight, Ring Binder, a cadmium red office ring binder propped against a gallery wall, and 50 Envelope Windows, which is also simply that ­– a book made up of her collection of 50 different envelope windows. Titles of art work often read as punch lines or denouements, but MacKillop’s wit does not lie in word play or trickery rather the bare manner by which she states the obvious.


Outdoor advertising space is more typically used for wider branding campaigns than artists projects – ­ to promote cheap mass produced goods –­ for cigarettes rather than books. The standardised use of such public space might be said to originate in Berlin where a monopoly over urban advertising was handed to Ernst Litfaß in 1855. Litfaß, the editor of a number of newspapers and the owner of a large printing press was supposedly disgusted by the messy distribution of notices, pamphlets and other materials on walls, doors, fences and trees, and invented the cylindrical advertising pillars now common across Germany and Austria, to tidy up the city. Granted in 1848 following the quashing of a Berlin street revolution by the Prussian army, Litfaß’ contract was not really benign, but rather amounted to censorship of the anti­government publications that had fuelled the uprising – posting anywhere besides a Litfaß column was made illegal. In subsequent years the Litfaß columns or ‘fat ladies’ fell back under the control of the state, becoming a site for fascist propaganda. Incidentally, since 2007 the restoration and maintenance costs for Litfaß’ grave in Dorotheenstadt cemetery, Berlin, has been paid for by Wall AG, a German company specialising in street furniture and digital outdoor advertising, and part of the multinational corporation JCDecaux Group.


AVAILABLE SOON the clock counting down. Posted in English, and located outside the American Library in Berlin; if the library book stands for a socialist triumph, a commodity reclaimed for public use, the ex­library book, the term for secondhand books that once belonged to a library and the least desirable in collecting terms, might signify inevitable recuperation. MacKillop’s Ex-library Book is not only a proposition, it is an artist’s book due to be published later this year. A collection of material relating to library management, the book will reproduce the evidence of library use – glued in pockets marked with a name and a date for return, bar codes, taped accession numbers and stamps of ownership – as well as images of items from contemporary library stationary supply catalogues, and diagrams explaining the proper care of books, one of which is used on the advert, demonstrating the correct way to remove a library book from its shelf.


Manilla book tickets (green or buff), cross ruled catalogue cards (punched), accession sheets (pack of 500), Sinclair display units (1200mm), and self­-inking mini date stamps… an industry exists to support analogue archival processes with products that are new but lack newness, already tinged with obsolescence. For those that viewed Conceptual art as an attempt to avoid commodification, its failure lay in its forms inability to dematerialise – in the manner that typewritten texts on file paper and xeroxed pages were recovered, the look of office administration, becoming its own aesthetic, rather than the most efficient way to propose an idea or deliver an instruction. Utilising similar materials and honouring the elegance of certain methods – ink stamped into paper and handwritten registers of borrowers­ MacKillop’s preoccupation with the textures and methods of such systems might appear nostalgic. But this description is not quite right, her approach to these things is more matter­-of-­fact than romantic, a Pop­like infatuation with the everyday, albeit one not so much enamoured with the dumbness of reproduced culture, but taking pleasure in the particularities of non-digital manufacture –­ guttering marks on photocopied paper, inconsistencies between standard envelope sizes, the awkwardness of an miss­used record sleeve… indeed the very materialised type of ordering one finds in a library – places stuffed with information stuff, where the librarians thought processes, arbitrary rules and the physical attributes of books, inflect the way things are found. Carpeted and wipe clean; places where Elephant sits between Elegance and Elevators, and unrelated hardbacks are wedged into the over-­sized shelf.


Neither monographs or exhibition catalogues, artist’s books have long confounded library classification. Self-published in 1963, Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations was originally rejected by the American Library of Congress. First printed in an edition of 400, and later in greater numbers, Ruscha’s publication is credited for establishing the artists book as an affordable mass produced commodity. Such faith in the democraticising power of fordist production has since proved naïve. Ironic, anomalous, MacKillop’s notice yet offers some resistance. An affirmation of a negation: an advertisement for something which is described by what it is no longer; a deadpan statement not of intent but of conflicting ideologies. Exactly what it says it is and not some awful pun; the Ex-­library Book is difficult to place.


Louise O’Hare, March 2012. This text was first published on the Clockwork gallery website, and was commissioned by Emma Astner. 


Sara MacKillop, Ex Library Book, was later published by Pork Salad Press, Copenhagen, 2012, and is available from Donlon Books.


References: Johanna Drucker, The Century of Artists Books (New York: Granary Books, 1995); Clive Phillpot, Edward Ruscha: Editions 1962­–1999 (ed. Siri Engberg, Minneapolis: Walker Art Centre, 1999).


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