catalog cards

Fotoram.iomnemonic whale catalog example

I think need a break from the Mnemonic Whale for a while. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made on it, but I am ready to work on bigger paintings and make videos. Although the whale is a vessel that is never complete (more side drawers need to be added someday in the future), it is currently fulfilling its duty at Backstory Books. For some of the books chosen from Amanda’s shop (and subsequently placed behind each door), there is a corresponding catalog card in the right side drawer.

I took inspiration from the book The Card Catalog by The Library of Congress published last year. Actual visual examples win me over every time and it was more proof for me that art and library science can be combined. My handwriting has always been the worst. Attempting to fit my bulbous and kinked scrawl onto a 3 inch index card is a little personal challenge of mine (“library hand” penmanship this is not). But practice will eventually make perfect (or close enough) and I hope to learn “library hand” someday. For now, making these little cards are actually helping me with recognizing categories more easily at work. They are free for the taking of course ~

The updated Mnemonic Whale page can be seen here: https://sylviedakotahuhn.com/others/mnemonicwhale/

Mnemonic Whale’s fix-up – pt. 1

mnenomic whale pt

The front and left side of the Mnemonic Whale is completed. For the left end, I added/modified a few tiny paintings I did years ago to the top + silicone, wood glue, gold and red ink. On the front, I sanded down the edges of the doors so they closed completely and I outlined the whale carving in gold ink. Now all it needs is the top layer, right end card catalog drawers, and proper innards (more about that soon).

Rambling post about deinstalling the Mnemonic Whale, barcodes, coloring, reference and the tactile

Untitled collage

The Mnemonic Whale officially left the Working Library this past Saturday. It was a slightly messy deinstallation, which consisted of my friend and I sweating and struggling not to knock over the bookshelves as we pushed and pulled to get that box out of there. Finally, Rory (WL’s co-founder) walked over and turned the box at an angle and gracefully removed it as I stood there gaping like a sweaty, embarrassed doofus.  I’m pretty grateful to of had the opportunity to show in WL, and I hope to come back in the coming weeks to see how those shelves will be transformed by the resident artists.

It appeared that most (all) of the items in the whale weren’t taken or traded, but two books were added (one in the N section and one in the Z section).  So I had to lug back bags of books and music home, but I plan to donate them somewhere soon. Although the use of the whale didn’t go as I had hoped, my partner in deinstallation told me at least it was the thought that counted.  Now my cat and I will have to figure out how to best utilize it in my studio.  I’m also planning on creating some shelves within one of my paintings (made out of a wooden shipping pallet) for archival documents and photographs.

Thoughts about art-making in Old Portland: Given the rising tide of demolitions and new, glassy, expensive apartment boxes within the past 10 years – “Old Portland” to me equals anything that has existed since the ’90s and before. The East Portland Eagle Lodge 3256 has existed since 1965, and it may meet the end of it’s life soon.  My friend and former co-worker Lacey has been hosting a coloring book night on Thursdays, where she brings art supplies, puzzles, and her colossal collection of coloring books.  It’s been giving me an excuse to sit among friends, work on a painting inside an old vessel, on a desk next to a mural from 1983, and over-looking decor from the ’60s and ’70s (including what I believe is a rhinestone eagle).  I think once you realize a place will be gone, you want to soak in the space/history as much as you can. The process of art-making alongside others can be a therapeutic way to do that.

Thoughts about work: To save time, it’s usually helpful to just scan a book’s ISBN barcode into OCLC Connexion to bring up search results instead of looking at the copyright page.  But sometimes that ISBN barcode is covered with a store/price barcode and that ancient barcode sticker is glued on tight and no amount of peeling will remove it entirely.  Of course I become all interested in the layered/torn barcodes – and initially I thought it was just a purely visual fascination but I just remembered that it equally has to do with touch.  Texture, rubbing and peeling are all a large part of my painting process, and I don’t think art-making would be worth it to me if the roughness wasn’t there.  I do love copy-cataloging, and I’m looking forward to learning how to catalog from scratch.  I also love being a reference librarian, and although this summer term has brought less students/hours, there are still needs. Last week, an older gentleman came in looking for our hardbound issues of Life Magazine.  When he found out that they had been thrown out to create space, he seemed pretty upset.  Luckily, we both learned that Google Books had digitized the exact issue from 1950 he was looking for. Although he wanted that tactile feel of turning the pages, what we found for his initial request was an example of the benefits of digitization and that librarians can still be involved in providing access.

Mnemonic Whale

In the 16th century, Italian philosopher Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) dictated a proposal titled L’Idea del Theatro (The Idea of the Theatre). This proposal outlined his dream for ‘The Theatre of Memory’, a wooden amphitheater that would function as a physical vessel for all the knowledge in the world (or, in other words, a collection of memories). The semicircular auditorium would be divided into seven sections, each section would be decorated with an assigned planet (or star) known during that time, including related Kabbalistic and mythological figures. The seven sections would each hold numerous doored compartments of scrolls and cards, categorized by subject matter. Camillo would never live to see his vision ever manifest. In 1966, British historian Frances Yates chronicled ‘The Theatre of Memory’ in her book on Classical and Renaissance-era mnemonic systems titled The Art of Memory, which helped resurrect Camillo’s concept for the masses.

From the white whale in Moby Dick to the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale in the Old Testament, whales have had a variety of symbolic interpretations in literature – the mother’s womb, the unconscious mind, human fear, purity, and the unattainable. The colossal mass of a whale can also evoke an allegory of a vessel or an abode – a body of flesh holding answers. ‘The Mnemonic Whale’ is a deviation from ‘The Theatre of Memory’ in size, shape and functional design (although the inside of each door has a painted celestial body from Camillo’s proposal). Instead of attempting to hold all the knowledge in the world, the seven divisions are based off of simplified, selected categories from the Library of Congress (LOC) – B (Psychology/Philosophy), M (Music), N (Fine Arts), P (Literature/Fiction), Q (Science), R (Medicine) and Z (Bibliography/Library).

As a miniature lending/exchange library, you are encouraged to both take and contribute books, zines, music, or any objects that you personally believe could fit into either of these seven subject-categories. In the end, we are working to achieve a future archive of a collective memory of the community.

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Recommended reading:

Foer, J. (2012). Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything. New York: Penguin Press.

Yates, F. (1966). The Art of Memory. Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Working Library

8836 N. Lombard Street
Portland, OR 97203

 

 

Started some rare book research for a long term project at work today #pnw #archive #orthodontics #rarebooks #illustrations #masks #books #exhibit #ohsu #job (at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU))