8' x 8' x 12', books, wire, digital prints
Site-specific installation for Drawing Rooms, Jersey City, NJ
A wall of books erupts from Drawing Room's gallery library and becomes subsumed by the floor, as pages become airborne. "Overbooked" simultaneously raises the issues of storage, history, and retention of information, while referencing the tactile and evocative nature of books.
This installation is born out of a personal dilemma: after decades of collecting, and even worshipping books, I now have to get rid of them, and I’m pondering what that means. The amount they contain overwhelms me. As I go though them, I can trace my arc of making from a very young age. Like making, books represent the ability to transform or be transformed. They have always been a tactile container for potential, ambition, investigation. When these books are gone, I will be left to depend on the jumbled memories that choose to come forward without their prompting. I won’t have the comfort of a visible record of time well spent. Without their physical presence, my experience of time passing becomes flattened, digitized, virtual.
Amanda Heidel of NJSCA (New Jersey State Council on the Arts) interviewed Kate Dodd about her installation "Overbooked" in the ReUse, ReDuce, RePurpose: The Art of ReFuse exhibit. She shares her inspiration with us below, which extends far beyond the Drawing Room walls and touches on a very current issue: our relationships with books are changing.
A: Could you share your inspiration behind this installation with us?
K: “Overbooked” was born out of personal dilemma. I was in the middle of a move and realized I had to get rid of many of my books. After decades of collecting, and even worshipping books, I began to ponder what that meant. When I was asked to do the installation at Drawing Rooms, I came to check out the space and inside the room was a book closet (the gallery’s library), which I saw as a seed for creating a site specific installation.
A: What questions and feelings arose for you during this process?
K: I realize that my relationship with books has changed. As objects, books have always meant a lot to me but over the past several years I haven’t read anywhere near as many books as I used to. I began to explore my relationship to books on a deeper level and realized that I was emotionally tied to these books that I had kept for so many years but hadn’t opened. Why then was I keeping them? Without their physical presence, I’m afraid that the experience of time passing will become less accessible to me, that memories will become more rigid.
A: I feel like that is becoming something that a lot of people are dealing with now that we can Google the answers to any questions we might have.
K: Yes, I realized that I was sad about the change in my relationship with books because of Iphones. People aren’t willing to go to books first anymore. It’s also problematic because the information people find on the internet is somewhat superficial - Wikipedia is quite different than a book. It’s like the saying “looking at the door isn’t the same as going in the room”.
A: Did you find a way to deal with the emotional process of repurposing all of these books?
K: This installation became sort of a ritual of acknowledgement while saying goodbye. As I went through all of the books that I had in my house I saw so many connections between them. I realized things that I had been interested in years ago and what I am still interested in now, in many ways, had the same common thread - and I could see the links between all of the books that I owned. They are all relevant to my artwork. In many ways they represent a record of my life. As I went through them, I could trace my arc of making from a very young age. When these books are gone, I will be left to depend on the jumbled memories that choose to come forward without their prompting; I won’t have the comfort of a visible record of time well spent.
A: I like the idea of it becoming a ritual, sort of an offering…
K: Right! Giving it up is giving up the physical reminders and having to rely on memory. Giving up the books is like jumping off of a cliff. Whatever knowledge sticks with me will be all I have; I no longer have the security of having them to look at.
A: Can you talk a bit about the floor beginning to travel up into the books and what that represents?
K: The floor traveling up the book installation symbolically references what I think will happen to books. It is representative of books becoming peripheral in our culture now that people have become so reliant on technology. Like making, books represent the ability to transform or be transformed. They have always been a tactile container for potential, ambition, and investigation.
A: When I first looked into the room I wasn’t able to see the entire installation, I had almost mistaken it for a used book store.
K: I like to make things that you can’t see all at once. It was my intention to create the installation so that you could only see a pile of books and as you walked further into the room you are enveloped into a new environment.
A: I really enjoy the kinetic elements of the installation. The wind coming through the window creating movement of the pages that you have strung throughout the room; was that purposeful or something that happened organically?
K: Yes it was, as soon as I saw the window in the room I knew it had to become part of the installation. Even the sounds that travel in through the window became part of the installation... the firetrucks driving by, the sounds of cars passing, people talking.
A: Thank you so much, Kate.