UPDATE: I've been meaning to add this image of the "Whithersoever" art exhibit by Lauren Grossman from OSU's Fairbanks Gallery that was up at the time of the book reading performance piece described below. The sheep are on wheels as is each of the mini lawns. Very cool.
Last Thursday, my friend Mary B and I went to OSU's Fairbanks West Gallery to see/participate in an art performance piece by OSU art student Kathryn Cellerini called "Everything I've Never Read." Coming in out of the misty rain, Mary and I found the artist sitting on cushions on the floor amid lovely braided rugs (sorry, I didn't' get the artist's name on the rugs) and strewn with books, some library and some of her own.
We introduced ourselves, chatted with her, and picked out some books to read. Mary found herself on a floor cushion with Dante's Divine Comedy,
an 1920's version. Kathryn was reading from an elegant volume of Moby Dick
with gilt edges and pale blue satin ribbon bookmark. I settled into a velvet armchair and picked up a paperback reprint of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia
, with excellent introduction by Lionel Trilling (1952 edition), while holding a 1943 volume of Wuthering Heights
with excellent wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg.
This project is great fun because we all have stacks of books waiting to be read - mine piled on bedside table and coffee table. Sadly, one could never read everything! And as a writing instructor, I do feel that I "ought to" have read more. But when?
According to her artist statement, Cellerini sets out her reasons and goal:
Though culturally relative, there is a standard set of literary works that a person is expected to have read. Given my love and admiration for books, sadly I do not read as much as I would like. And the books that I choose to read on my free time are either in the subjects of history, science or art because those are passionate interests of mine. Yet my cultural understanding of what it is to be well-read is based on the opinions of laureates, family, and peers. Even basic literacy works that elementary students might read are only titles to me, not experiences.
The intention during this week-long performance is to not only become familiar with literature that is otherwise foreign, but also to designate time every day to include such a task. My place will be in this space as much as possible..The personal ramification of this project will be life-long as I will be able to engage in a literary dialogue that I couldn't have otherwise. However, this project is of interest to me even more so because it invites the viewer to take an initiative and enter a space of curiosity, vulnerability, and comfort.
Thank you, Kathryn, for helping all of us to reach out to books we have never read.