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Interlude: The reader’s traces

Mariana Castillo Deball

Fine artist Mariana Castillo Deball (researcher Fine Art 2002-2003) did research in Berlin, New York and Paris into the way the public uses libraries and their books. She documented the behaviour of the public in these reading and study places in a photo report.

The images reveal how readers mark out space by arranging books, pens and laptops on the tables, how readers fall asleep over their books, et cetera. The photographs also expose the traces readers left behind in books: a small piece of paper to find a page again, a note in the margin, perhaps a coffee stain. These traces not only add new anecdotes to the book, the story and the user, they also constitute an alternative, informal catalogue of the library and its public.
This is why Castillo Deball invited various artists, designers and theoreticians to produce their own ‘traces’: a textual or visual contribution, which were added to the library books as appendices. The members of staff themselves determined the strategy for distribution of the pages: in a specific department of the library, in a certain selection of books, on a certain page of a book, … Thus, Paul Elliman designed a leather bookmark for the books Frankensteins creature learned how to read with; Manuel Räder added undeveloped photographic paper to mathematical publications and Dario Gamboni gathered three quotes on coincidence, which were distributed over the work tables. Mariana Castillo Deball photographed these traces, produced and left behind on purpose, and recorded them on microfilm, together with the photo report on the behaviour of the library users. The microfilms, in turn, were left behind in the microfilm databases of the libraries. The artist’s book Interlude: The reader’s traces brings together the photo reports and the photographs of the microfilms with the actual pages added in the library books. For the project to come full circle, the book itself now has to be included in the collections of the libraries that were researched.