Thursday, January 6, 2011

A day filled with art and books

The weather today was not very nice. It was cold and cloudy; partway though the morning it started to drizzle. But the weather actually helped Katherine and I (James wasn't feeling well today) have a lovely day filled with books and art.

Through the bouts of cold rain, we looked for places of refuge and warmth. We spent some time in a four-story bookstore (everything was in Turkish) looking at all the books and music choices. Twice we happened by art galleries with exhibits that looked inviting (as did the warm, dry space), so we went in. One was a David LaChapelle exhibit of large color prints of crazy settings and another collection of incongruous combinations of natural disaster and the people who survived them. (Don't Google him if you don't like provocative artwork!) The other was a photo exhibit in the French Cultural Center. The photos were taken around Istanbul - they showed colorful depictions of various areas and events around the city. The place where we spent the most time today was the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. We saw some good exhibits - the permanent collection, a photo exhibit, and an overview of Armenian architects' works in Istanbul. But the installations......they were great! One, especially was my favorite.

"False Ceiling" by Richard Wentworth. Books, books, and more books -- hovering just a couple of feet over my head. An entire gallery was filled with these floating books. Each one was suspended from the ceiling by one string threaded through a small hole drilled into the center of the book, cover to cover. The books were hung at random angles, but close enough to each other so that they were almost touching. The covers lay on the same plane, with the front cover of each book facing the floor, and the viewer. The illusion of a ceiling created an intimate space out of the large, empty expanse of the gallery. But one of the best parts of the exhibit, for me, was the origin of the ceiling. The gallery space where the ceiling of books hung was located right next to the glassed-in museum library. The installation actually started inside the library where the stacks ended, on the same level as the top shelf, creating the illusion that the book ceiling was flowing out of the library. Standing underneath the floating books, I spent quite a bit of time looking at the titles -- some Turkish, some English -- most were books I had never heard of before. I think Richard must have gone to flea markets and bought out the box-of-books-for-a-dollar section!

Something I thought about while standing underneath the "False Ceiling" was the inaccessibility of those particular books. Books are meant to be read, but not only were these out of reach, they were also tied shut by the string. Even if I could've gotten my hands on one of the books as it floated by, I could not have opened it. So, what good is a book that isn't able to be opened?

Good for art!

(If you want to see another version of this installation, click here. It doesn't have the library-origin, though.)

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