The New Five Foot Shelf, 2001
The Allen Ruppersberg’s studio of the last 15 years is collapsed into a 50 volume set of books and a set of posters. The 44 posters reproduce the studio on a one to one scale and when they are assembled it recreates the studio as it was at 611 Broadway. The books are an exact reproduction of the Harvard Classics, Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf Of Books published in 1910 by P.F. Collier & Son. It provided in about 22,000 pages, knowledge of ancient and modern literature that seemed essential to the idea of a cultivated man. It came in a handsomely bound set of 50 volumes of about 350 pages each.
We have reproduced them (on the outside) exactly as they were. On the inside, the volume 50 of the books is a second photographic record of the studio that serves as an index. The first volume is a facsimile of the manual of the Five Foot Shelf Of Books. The other 48 volumes are a collection of texts which represent a part of the unseen interior and symbolic sense of the space.
The text pages are arranged so as to appear to be captions for selected pages of the index as well as a narrative that runs throughout all of the volumes. They can be read one sentence, one page, or one book at a time. There are 16 pages of text in each book. Four signatures of each volume are printed, the rest are left blank. Into this empty space we have randomly inserted a selection of obituaries, mostly of artists, from the collection of Allen Ruppersberg.
Mixing real time with fictional time, a piece of the studio and a piece of the actual world mark a page in a purely imaginary space. Since the work can be read in many ways and directions at the same time. We have left many bookmarks to plot the course. When everything has been completely rearranged and put back together again and again by the viewer, a very private world is opened up for all to see. One collection placed inside the container of another. An old space is filled with new information.
An index is a type of sign that arises as the physical manifestation of a cause, of which traces, imprints, and clues are examples. In this case, the photographs of the studio bear an indexical relationship to the works and ideas that came out of it rather than the objects seen in the photographs. A new Merzbau, “some form of container for a variety of objects which bore commemorative and autobiographical significance”. A room folded into a set of books. An architectural autobiography. Another form of concrete poetry with the pages shuffled like cards and a rhythm to match.