A Detached Cultural Organisation Commission, 2017–2019
Building with circular room, domed ceiling, 2 vestibules, table, stools, approx 2,000 books, hand-painted map, text & audio track (50’ loop)
Wood, plywood, chicken-wire, plaster, timber stain, mirrored stainless steel, glass, lighting, 8m (l) x 4m (w) x 4m (h) approx
Construction & project management:
Detached builders: Mark Young, Matt, Paul and the team
Architectural advice: Timothy Hill
Design drawings & advice: Phoebe Adams
Hand-painted map & text: Brian Looker
Exterior panel fabrication: Xanderware
Audio recording: Caleb Miller
Sound engineering: Ross Giblin & Sergei Nester
Audio mix: Brigita Ozolins
Ambient Track: Epidemic Sound
Lighting: Dean Ware
Filming: Hype TV
Photography: Jesse Hunniford
With special thanks to Penny Clive, Michael Bugelli, Richard Flanagan, Alberto Manguel and the 42 people who so generously read for the project.
A Tasmanian Reading Room 2019
Our books will bear witness for or against us, our books reflect who we are and who we have been, our books hold the share of pages granted to us from the Book of Life. By the books we call ours we will be judged.
In the light, we read the inventions of others; in the darkness we invent our own stories.
Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night
Stories are progressive, sentence must build upon sentence as brick upon brick, yet the beauty of this life in its endless mystery is circular. Sun & moon, spheres endlessly circling.
Richard Flanagan, Gould’s Book of Fish
A Tasmanian Reading Room is an architecturally inspired installation that invites reflection about Tasmania and our relationship to it through engagement with its published fiction and non-fiction writing. Constructed as a miniature library, the work aims to create a space that evokes a sense of mystery and discovery, of encountering an ongoing narrative about the island that is in a continual state of becoming. You can browse through an ever-growing collection of books in which Tasmania is the protagonist, sit beneath a domed ceiling that features a hand-painted map of Tasmania or settle down with a book of your choice in an intimate reading nook.
Entering the reading room is a bit like going into a Tardis – the interior is completely different from the exterior. You first encounter a library of about 2,000 books, all of them with a Tasmanian connection. You then enter the central circular reading room which has a dramatic dome ceiling that features a hand-painted map of Tasmania and a round table with a quote from Richard Flanagan about the progression and circularity of words and stories along its perimeter. A globe illuminates the space like a moon.
But the heart of the Reading Room is an audio track that features the voices of 42 people reading from a book of their choice about Tasmania. The stories are diverse - an older man reads about the early history of Van Diemen’s Land, a child tells the story of a duck without feathers, a female describes the wildness of the sea… There are single and over-laid voices, the occasional cacophony and quieter moments that create space for reading and reflection. As the voices fade in and out it is difficult to pinpoint their exact source – it is as if they are embedded within the structure itself, as if the walls themselves are speaking.
The 42 Readers
The starting point for the work was a quote by bibliophile Alberto Manguel, who tells us that our books will bear witness for or against us, and that it is by our books that we will be judged. His words are inscribed in mirrored stainless steel and embedded in the main exterior panelling of the Reading Room structure. The project was also informed by the concept of an island, Matthew Flinder’s circumnavigation of Tasmania from 1798-9, mirrored archways that feature in the Mercury building, and minimal architectural design elements often associated with religious buildings.
A Tasmanian Reading Room was commissioned by Detached Cultural Organisation in 2017.
James Boyce, Michael Bugelli, Janet Carding, Leigh Carmichael, Ron Christie, Mike Coffin, Peter Davies, Duckpond, Rodney Dunn, Lisa Fletcher, Ryk Goddard , Finn Godfrey, Xanthe Godfrey, Julie Gough, Timothy Hill, Kristyn Harman, Roger Hodgman, Patrick Howard, Jane Hutchinson, Greg Jefferys, Varuni Kulasekera, Bruno Kunda, Jennifer Lavers , Greg Lehman, Brian Looker, Rosalie Martin, Ian Morrison, Bruce Neill, Haidee Neill, Penelope Nester, Sergei Nester, Brigita Ozolins, Pamela Rabe, Henry Reynolds, Brian Ritchie, Heather Rose, Clive Tilsley, Dean Ware, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Kate Warner AC Governor of Tasmania, Jane Williams, Danielle Wood, Mark Young