Books and Mortar by Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong

Tarika Agarwal of Saffronart discusses the impact of a Mobile Art Library in Sri Lanka

Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Exhibition view. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Exhibition view. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

Mumbai: ‘Open Edit: Mobile Library’ is a traveling archive of contemporary art books drawn from the collection of Hong Kong based Asia Art Archive. The books will travel to locations around Asia, making it possible for broader audiences to access and interact with this unique learning resource beyond Hong Kong.

Preparations for opening of Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

Preparations for opening of Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

Following its first edition in Ho Chi Minh City in 2011, starting mid March all the way till early July, the library travels to Sri Lanka, making its first appearance in South Asia. When it was decided that the location would be Sri Lanka, Raking Leaves, an organization that commissions and publishes contemporary art projects was invited to act as its host.

It all begins in Jaffna, where the books will be housed at Christa Seva Ashram for three months, while the University of Jaffna’s Fine Arts (Art History) and Art & Design departments will integrate the library and its materials into their day-to-day curriculum activities. The project will be accompanied by a series of programs targeting artists, students, creative professionals, teachers, and academics. The project will also invite students and teachers from the Eastern University in Batticoloa and the Visual and Performing Arts University, Colombo, to utilize the rich array of materials in the archive.

Opening of Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

Opening of Open Edit: Mobile Library at Seva Christa Ashram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 2013. Photo: Courtesy Raking Leaves

The opening of the Mobile Library was held outside the Ashram between the many trees on the ashram’s grounds. There were roughly 300 people who attended the event; a lot of them were students who were very excited with this opportunity that has presented itself to them. A lot of the people are still surprised with the idea that Jaffna could be a place where people or things of any importance come.

When the library moves on, and all the books disappear, its true impact will take time to register. Some of the books among the 400 titles that make up this ‘Mobile Library’ are Faith and the City: A Survey of Contemporary Filipino ArtA Strange Heaven: Contemporary Chinese PhotographyThe Geeta Kapur Reader; editions of YishuChina Post–1989Currents in Korean Contemporary Art; six years worth of Art Asia Pacific’s Almanacs” and 10 Years of Video Art in Indonesia 2000–2010. By the time the library closes and the books are returned to AAA Hong Kong, it is anticipated that the collection will have been seen by over 1,500 art and design students, art professionals, teachers and of course the members of the Sri Lankan public.

To learn more about this initiative, read an article by Sharmini Pereira, an independent curator and founder director of Raking Leaves on the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative Blog.

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