Wednesday 5 November 2014

Sasha Pirogova's Biblimlen at the Hayward Gallery, London

Installation in the Hayward Gallery
On a recent visit to the Hayward Gallery I came across Sasha Pirogova's Biblimlen (2013) - a playful video in which various characters act out small, expressive scenes within Moscow’s grand Russian State Library. In one scene, a man obstructing the catalogue card system unwittingly becomes part of the system himself as a library visitor opens drawers around him, suspending him between them. The scene is available on YouTube.

Still from Biblimlen. Source:

It was refreshing to see such a fun and physical artwork and it’s great that the library, its furniture and its conventions are integral to it. The work made me wonder if the library had inspired the artwork. In the video it appears as an archetype with its rows of partitioned desks, hooded reading lamps and mazes of shelving. It's a fertile place for the imagination.

This led me to think of the bland libraries of my youth (particularly the academic ones) - all metal shelves and mismatched office furniture - and I wondered if a beautiful or distinctive library might be a more conducive place to read or study?

I am often drawn to art that is created in or exhibited in a specific place, as it has the power to make us reassess our own relationship with that venue – in this instance Pirogova’s artwork makes us see libraries in a lively and inventive way – turning them from quiet, sometimes stifled places, to ones of surprise and imagination.


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