In 2010 Master of Fine Art student Carla Novi proposed the White Books project as part of the MFA Interim Show. The project involved placing, as a group, a small number of blank books within GSA Library collections, catalogued and labelled as if standard publications but all completely without word or image – a very different kind of book than those usually discovered on the Library’s shelves. The books were beautifully handmade with white leather covers and were serendipitously discovered by readers as they browsed the Library’s shelves. Carla explains:
“There is a strange relationship between a book and the text that it holds. As one reads through the pages of a book, the text absorbs the reader in such a way that, for a moment, the reader forgets about the object being held and is transported to the world of the text. However, every now and then the reader is reminded about the object being held and eventually becomes more conscious about it, drifting his or her attention from the text to the book and back to the text again. The five White Books located at GSA library bring attention to the book as an object. The lack of text encourages the reader to focus solely on the item being held. The books also become a disruption in a library setting, as their blankness emerges as a displaced emptiness located in a space where functionality relies on the accumulation of information and knowledge. In a way, the block of White Books might also serve as a time out space for a library visitor, for somebody who might want to take a breath in the middle of a pile of information. Any reader that comes across White Books, either by chance or by previous awareness of their existence, is invited to spend any amount of time browsing through the blank pages, interacting in any preferred way, and to play with the endless interpretations that a white page might suggest.”
After a period of a few weeks, the books were opened up for circulation, and could be borrowed by readers and taken away, just like any other book in the Library’s Lending Collections. Over time the movements of these books, and their coming and going from the Library shelves, will be reflected in their date labels, adding a new patina of meaning.