Librarian, Art, Music and Recreation Center
Artists Ann Hamilton and Ann Chamberlain described their project for “Untitled” in a brochure written for prospective annotators. They came upon the idea to use library catalog cards as a recognition of the changes that where happening in libraries everywhere – the transition from a physical card catalog to an online virtual catalog. They recognized that this meant that library users had to “change from a tactile experience of organized information to an experience that is primarily visual and electronic.” The artists acknowledged the serendipitous nature of using the physical card file and wanted to render that kind of relationship to information in a physical form: “Extending both vertically and horizontally through the building the palimpsest of cards presents the marks of individual library users and remembers the kinds of accidental juxtapositions and associations that they physical and conceptual order of the old catalog once so readily invited.”
Hamilton and Chamberlain provided their annotators with guidance on how to mark the cards. They detailed writing instruments that used waterproof ink and that were "light fast" – that would not fade through exposure to light over time. At the same time participants were encouraged to using a pen or pencil that “feels right.” They encouraged annotators to quote text from inside the catalog card’s book, or to find, quote, and cite a book on a related topic. “For us, the process of excerpting text and creating juxtapositions between the hand written annotation and the pre-existing typed catalog information replicates a broadly associative research pattern which is akin to the leapfrogging that occurs when one leaps through the many subjects that exist in a single card drawer.”
The artists worked with an awareness that the 50,000 catalog cards would be affixed to walls on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the library, walls that served as a boundary between the open library collections from the closed stack reference collections. The actual catalog cards used in their artwork came from the Library’s branch card catalogs. The old Main Library’s card catalog remains intact in storage.
For more information see:
Ann Chamberlain’s obituary at the April 22, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle
Art Works at the San Francisco Public Library
The Art, Music and Recreation Center Newspaper Clipping File. Ask to see the “Hamilton, Ann & Chamberlin, Ann – Untitled” subfolder within the “San Francisco Public Library – Main Library (1996- )” folder.
Search for article citations about Ann Chamberlain in the Art Full Text online index.
There is also a short segment about Ann Chamberlain’s art on a DVD of Visual Arts segments from the KQED-TV program Spark.
An annotated card for Pottery and Porcelain, A Guide to Collectors by Frederick Litchfield