I came across this typed manuscript in a blank hardcover folder portfolio among one of the many stacks of shelved books in the Elsewhere Living Library. There was no identification of author or date on the manuscript. I scanned each page sequentially. I'm interested in exploring this anyonymous narrative as an artifact, and as a soure of found text in upcoming projects.
Photos documenting minstrel shows appeared in yearbooks and books on American theater and entertainment in the Living Library. I wanted to include these in the index, but at at the same time I had no interest in putting these photographs back in public circulation. One solution was to reproduce the photo captions while leaving the images themselves absent from my index.
I was also struck by one particular yearbook that listed the students' hobbies in the captions undernearth their yearbook portraits. Minstrel was listed along orchestra, band, baseball, and track, as a fully normalized extracurricular activity.
These fell out of the pages of a small poetry volume in the library. The scanner wasn't cooperating so I photographed them on a light table first and then inverted in Photoshop. I don't have any information about the origin of these negatives.
Several books from the Elsewhere Living Library collection that are now on my personal wish list.
Renee Green - Other Planes of There
Pad.ma - 10 Theses on the Archive
Anthony Downey - Dissonant Archives
Toni Morrison - Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
Notes compiled for a talk at Elsewere on August 1, 8-10 pm, as part of an in-process opening for the Southern Constellations projects. I closed by reading aloud a selection from Renee Green's Other Planes of There (section "Another Encounter" from Chapter 20: Archives, Documents?).
Why the index?
Form of writing I started using in my work in 2011 as part of Book Club Book
A way of grouping associations, thoughts, notes, references
Opening speculative possibilities and introducing new subjectivites
Questioning and providing my own layer to the archive
Why the archive?
The Elsewhere Living Library is unique
- Section of time (books from early 1800s - 1997)
- Mass produced book objects for mass consumption
- Ideologies and fears: e.g. fear of racial integration, Communist fears/Cold War, the atomic age
- Closed archive
I am interested in the American imagination as represented in the collection
What will the index look like?
This is not a comprehensive catalogue of the library - Elsewhere has an online catalog
Keywords are developed from the collection
Index includes text excerpts, images
What’s being omitted?
- Encyclopedias and reference books
- Reader’s Digest and other condensed books (I would include if I had more time. This is a potentially interesting form vs anthologies)
- Children’s fiction
What have I discovered?
A brief list of some interesting discoveries to date:
- Largest category: biographies of Nixon and JFK, their wives, friends, staff, etc.
- Women writers: fiction: Mary Roberts Rinehart is the most heavily represented
- Early feminist texts: Audre Lorde, Alice Walker
- James Baldwin, Richard Wright
- Race relations (yearbooks, KKK writings)
- Radical texts on African nationalism, Black identity
- Discussions of Women’s issues (arguments against women’s suffrage)
- Found objects: typed manuscripts, handwritten notes, pressed flowers, film negatives
The project will also include a reading group and photos as temporary intervention in the archive.
Regina Agu's project A Living Index is an experimental index of the Elsewhere Living Library collection. The index consists of keywords, text excerpts, images, and found objects. This project is an investigation of the American imagination and ideologies across different slices of time as evidenced in the collection. In addition to the index, A Living Index includes a reading group and photographs of temporary interventions in the library archive.
In addition to the final exhibition documentation of this project, I am interested in documenting excerpts, found items, research questions and other notes during my time in the Elsewhere Living Library.
I am working through the library collection and generating an experimental index of keywords, text excerpts, and images. The index will be published digitally, and perhaps as a printed document. I first worked with the index as an experimental writing form in 2011, as part of the Book Club Book project with Future Plan and Program.
I am also hosting a reading group for women of color with members of Elsewhere and the greater Greensboro community. The reading(s) will relate to archival practices by practitioners of color. This is an extension of a reading group project that I've hosted in Houston since October 2014.
Finally, I will produce photographs of selections of the Elsewhere Living Library collection accompanied by books brought in by reading group members in response to the experimental index. The photographs will serve as documentation of a temporary intervention into the closed Living Library archive.
My fellowship began on July 8 and will conclude August 12, 2015.