The Commutual Library
2012 - present


The Commutual Library is an exchange­-based archive, built (nominally) around the life of my grandfather. Each participant in the library is a contemporary member of a community that intersected with my grandfather’s life; previous participants include a labor lawyer, a Proust scholar, a number of other artists, and a New York City councilmember. The objects in the collection are acquired by exchanging my own gifts (which have taken the form of drawings, interactive video­sculptures, and miniature cabinets of curiosity) for the participants' own artifact that somehow represents their own involvement in that community. Each object in The Commutual Library is therefore both a representative of the history of a community and a record of an act of exchange.

Presentations of The Commutual Library have involved installation, performance (in the form of semi-pedagogical performance/lectures, referred to as “Docent Tours”), and video (the interviews and exchanges with participants are recorded, which is in turn used as raw material for presentation). The exchanges themselves broaden the scope of media used, incorporating elements of social practice, sculpture, documentary film, and various other multimedia forms. For The Commutual Library, media follows purpose rather than the other way around.

The Commutual Library posits a world in which face­-to­-face communication takes precedence over digital mediation. A world in which a culture of consume­-and­-discard is undercut by explicating the hidden history of objects. One in which value is recast from monetary to ethical and communal. One in which the present is always in dialog with the centuries­-long history that brought us here. It is a provisional world, for now, and one that doesn't shy away from the messiness elided by so many utopian visions -- but it is nonetheless proposes what the world could be.