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Contemplating The End Of Books (As We Know Them)

Antonia Wright/Ruben Millares/Spinello Projects Miami

With budget cuts impacting public libraries all over the country, this summer is not only your traditional reading season – it’s also a time for thinking about reading.

The State of the Book at Spinello Projects will exhibit physical books as precious, engaging objects – works of art you can touch – and will encourage people to sit, read and ruminate on the future of printed matter.

Created by local video and performance artists Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares, the exhibit will contain over 1,500 books, from classic and contemporary literature to poetry, travel, music, history, children’s literature, mystery and works in Spanish.

The selection of books comes from the artists’ private collections and an interesting list of donors. It's meant to cater to a variety of tastes, interests and whims – ranging from genre works you might see at a garage sale to titles you literally won’t find anywhere else.

Credit Spinello Projects Miami
The State of the Book

The individuals and institutions that contributed to the project include the Miami Dade Public Library System, the Bass Museum of Art, Libreria Universal, the Margulies Collection, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and an array of artists, friends and family.

With regards to the individual donors, Wright says, “What you read affects your view of the world, so they’re portraits of that person.”

The mix of public and private curation will make for an interesting collection that is at once expansive and intimate, yet the overall goal is to promote the question that circulates throughout the project: what is the state of the book?

Proclaiming the Death of the Book might be a too-soon overstatement, but there are, undoubtedly, serious shifts in how we produce and consume text. The Internet, a recurring culprit in these matters, presents both opportunities and challenges: though it’s democratized a lot of information and knowledge, the act of reading through a screen is ephemeral, fickle – prone to distract and interrupt.

People are spending and/or wasting increasing amounts of time on social media, yet there’s also a proliferation of small and independent publishing economies, enabled by such communicative technologies. The list goes on.

Wright and Millares acknowledge these technological changes as key considerations for The State of the Book, but the status of libraries and education budget cuts are the main cruxes. They pointed out that as libraries close, books get sent to other branches in the area, which creates compounding problems.

Credit Rudy Duboué
Peephole view of Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares' performance, Drinks on Me at Spinello Projects.

“There’s a limited number of books a library can have, so when they exceed that number, one of the options is throwing the books away,” Millares told me, an option carried out with increasing frequency (and indeed, the books from the Miami Dade Public Library on display are those that were going to be discarded).

“It’s not just the loss of books,” he added, “but as libraries close, the use of free Internet is cut off to those looking for jobs as well.”

A mini-library at Spinello Projects is fitted with massive shelves, seating and a desk for long-term research. Throughout the exhibition, a series of readings and unique programming will be held, climaxing with a performance titled “Copyright Infringement” – the particulars of which remain a secret. (If Wright and Millares’ performance “Drinks on Me” at Spinello during Basel last year is any indication, it will be a highly engaging and potentially messy spectacle.)

If not just to escape the Florida heat and browse the collection, The State of the Book will offer a chance to sit and ponder the possibility that someday – and maybe sooner than we think – physical books may only be found in museums.

Here's where to go:

The State of the Book at Spinello Projects

2930 NW 7th Ave

Miami, FL 33127

And when:

Doors open on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. Regular hours are Tuesday – Saturday from 12 – 5:00 p.m.