Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Sowter’

Final thoughts

Here is a video that shows the process of our final performance.

Music found on:

Posted: May 8th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Uncategorized
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Destroying Darwin’s The Origin of Species

As a group we have confirmed that the book that we will be sacrificing in our performance will be Darwin’s The Origin of Species. This book still causes controversy amongst religious groups today and contrasts with the religious artwork in Emile Male’s books. The library is supposed to be an unbiased home to all manner of books that contain both scientific and religious ideas, however, Male’s books were rejected donations to the library. We are going to give the books a new lease of life for a day by making them into a spectacle and by destroying Darwin’s books that changed the way we look at the world. We are not only bringing to life the ever persisting debate between science and religion but we are also using the theme of sacrifice in the middle ages that Male’s books explore.

The sacrificing of the books will occur in three different forms: Drowning, scrubbing with a stone and pricking with a sewing needle until the pages are unreadable. We have also decided that once we have individually finished destroying our book, we will remove the dresses and leave them with all of the other paper debris for a few hours after the performance. It will be mysterious for people who had not seen us in our dresses and will also draw people’s attention to the books that were to be banished from the library. The idea of leaving behind this memory of what we produced reminds me of Christo’s art installations where he wrapped buildings completely in fabric:

Christo - Wrapped Reichstag - Conceptual art - Installation - Other/Unknown theme

The Reichstag in Berlin. The wrapping was done by 210 installation workers and climbers1

With this installation the Reichstag became more noticeable after it has been concealed, it was completely transformed into something different and unrecognisable. With our performance we are doing a similar thing: some of the books shelves will be completely covered with book pages. Similarly to Christo’s installation, we are covering ourselves and the shelves in something that is temporary. Jacob Autor Baal-Teshuva writes about the Reichstag wrapping and says that ‘like clothing or skin, the fragility of fabric transmits the unique quality of impermanence’2. Although it is debatable how ‘unique’ this quality is, as most things can be said to be impermanent, our dresses are not suitable to be worn for more than a few hours due to the quality of the material. This makes our performance even more special because it will only happen once. Although I am excited to do the performance, it will be sad to see Male’s books be destroyed and to remove our mark on the library. As with Christo’s Reichstag project though, and most things in life, the performance cannot last forever!


our most recent trial. We began to book and the shelf together, as if Kirsty is part of the library.3

  1. []
  2. Baal-Teshuva, J. (2001). Christo And Jeanne-claude. France:Taschen []
  3. Jakins, K. 2013 []
Posted: April 7th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Library, Uncategorized
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Religion, Science and the Library

We have decided that we will use the religious aspect of Male’s books as the provocation for our performance once we are on our platforms. The dresses that we will make are about religious art in 13th Century France and so we want to explore what it means to wear religious imagery in a place that is dedicated to knowledge, freedom and diversity.

The library is a place where both Religion and Science exist peacefully together, however in the wider world there is still a prominent tension between these two schools of thought. Academic and atheist Richard Dawkins expresses the opinion that religion and science cannot co-exist harmoniously in his documentary The root of all evil  and describes religion as ‘divisive and dangerous’1. We will be wearing the religious imagery and to show the divisive nature of religion, we will destroy a scientific book disguised as library property .

Books and libraries being destroyed in the name of religion is something that has re-occurred all through history, even dating back to the destruction of the Library of Alexandria (although there is uncertainty about how and why the library was destroyed). For us to destroy a scientific book in a library would carry a lot of historical and political meaning as this battle has never gone away. We want to destroy a book in a way that is contextually relevant to the L’art Religieux books we are wearing. As Male’s books explore sacrificial art of the 13th century, we are going to research different methods of sacrifice that we could use to destroy a science book. We also need to discuss exactly which book we will destroy and how we want to conclude the performance.


  1. Dawkins, 2006. The root of all evil. Channel 4. []
Posted: March 19th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Library
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The Worth Room

Now we know that we will be making paper dresses for our ‘pre-performance’, we need to decide what space to do this in. The Worth Room on the second floor of the library is perfect for this as it shares its name with the Lincolnshire born dress designer Charles Frederick Worth. Worth was famous in France (also where our books are from) for his flamboyant dresses that he made around the time Emile Male’s books were written and due to this happy coincidence, it is fitting that we use Worth’s designs for our own dresses. This fortunate chain of discoveries means that we now have our pre-performance planned.

This is the Worth room. If we perform in this room we have the opportunity to have an outside audience.1



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Posted: March 13th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Library, Uncategorized
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Tracing the life of our abandoned books

Ever since we brough Emile Male’s books from the library I have been intrigued by a hand written name and date in one of the books:

This is written in one of the editions we brought. We want to unravel this information and find out more about these books.1

This marking made us wonder how these books came to be in the library. The librarians confirmed that the books were donations given to the library and were being sold so cheaply because they were not relevant enough to any university course. This information led us to try and trace the person who wrote the note and we are going to attempt to make contact with them this week. If we are successful we may be able to find out how many people have had the book, where it was purchased, why it was given away etc… all useful information that may help to shape our final performance.

This development has made me think about the fixedness of site. The library consists of only one building in one place but it is connected to an infinite number of other places and people- Male’s b0oks are just a tiny strand of this larger global connection. The internet has made it possible to trace our book owners quickly, a prime example of how the world has become smaller due to technology. Jack Lule sums up my point perfectly: ‘media allowed humans to recover the unity they lost at babel’2.  We can now all connect together through media and the internet- we can translate Male’s books  to English within a few seconds. Our library is now not just one place but exists virtually and has connections worldwide, making it even harder to decide how to treat the space and what direction to take the performance in.

  1. Sowter, R. 2013 []
  2. Lule, J. (2012).Globalization and Media: Global Village of Babel. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield []
Posted: March 9th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Library
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