May 23, 2024

BiblioTech Symposium

May 5, 2022
3:00 – 6:30pm


BiblioTech explores the changing role of the library, reading, writing, and publishing in a post-digital age. The title suggests the latin term for library, ‘bibliotheca’, and also alludes to how the library and book culture has become increasingly technologised. 

The exhibition asks: What is the library-as-institution in the context of advanced AI language tools, new forms of text and image processing, and the increasing spread of publishing technology into our lives? How might the library evolve within the next phases of digitisation entangled with issues of climate change, mental health, social justice, and automation? And how will print culture respond to these changes too? 

This accompanying symposium invites scholars and artists to elaborate on the issues in the exhibition. Across five presentations, attendees will learn about the theories and practices relating the library to ways of knowledge formation; and the situation for publishing, reading and writing in the context of new technologies. 

Featuring Joana Chicau, Johanna Drucker, Gary Hall, Mel Jordan, Esther Leslie, Edgar Schmitz, and Emily Segal.


SESSION 1: Library as Institution // 3:00 – 4:45pm

Johanna Drucker’s talk is called “How I May Never Know Again.” In limbo between used-to-be and wanna-be the contemporary library struggles with competing agendas—to provide access to cultural records, memory, and knowledge or become a consumer grab-and-go emporium of just-in-time services. Knowledge structures and infrastructures disappear in this struggle. The once-available expression of classification and organization manifest in a legible physical space is gone—and with it the illusion and delusion of total knowledge and control. The frameworks within which understanding was located now lack spatial and intellectual coordinates. Ways of knowing change. The library as a site of encounter is in flux and the outcomes and consequences for knowledge are up for debate.

Johanna Drucker is Distinguished Professor and Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her work in the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, fine art, and digital humanities.

Mel Jordan and Gary Hall: “For us the arts and humanities are a site for the invention and testing of new knowledges, new practices, even new subjectivities, not least for the artist and author. Working with a range of different collaborators we carry out such tests in spaces traditionally associated with the institutions of the university and art school. We do so by reimagining various media-material aspects of the creation, circulation and sharing of art and knowledge, including books, journals, pamphlets and presses. See the Freee art collective’s choral reworking of pre-existing manifestos, or the processual texts of Open Humanities Press’s two liquid and living books series. But we are also concerned to conduct such tests in the public sphere by collaborating on the reimagining of galleries, libraries, archives, museums and other elements of municipal infrastructure. In both cases we operate very much in terms of those social movements dedicated to radical open access, peer production, internet ‘piracy’ and the anti-privatised knowledge commons. We are now working on the following question: can the collaborative, performative approaches to art and knowledge we have developed with initiatives such as the Partisan Social Club and Media Gifts be translated to cities? The idea is to help reinvent them, too, through the provision of a diverse repertoire of counter-institutional alternatives to those galleries and libraries that are currently being provided by the state and corporate realms, often under the rubric of ‘smart’. In the era of AI, blockchains and NFTs, do such counter-practices have the potential to generate a more socially just and environmentally sustainable way of living and learning in cities in the future?”

Mel Jordan is an artist and writer, her research addresses the ways in which public sphere theory can contribute to an expanded understanding of art, politics and its publics.

Gary Hall is a critical theorist and media philosopher working (and making) at the intersections of digital culture, politics, art and technology.

Jordan and Hall co-direct the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University.


SESSION 2: Publishing and Technology // 5:00 – 6:30pm

Emily Segal’s talk will focus on KNOTS, a meta-programmatic NFT project that launched in February 2022, featuring 720 three-dimensional KNOTS, metaphysically activated and created with elements of chaos. KNOTS are a new experiment in literary Web 3. A portion of each primary sale supported queer, trans, experimental and otherwise undersupported publishing projects via Segal’s literary press Deluge Books. In addition to this, each KNOT is an extension of the BURN ALPHA $NOVEL universe, initially launched in 2021 through a crowdfund on Mirror, becoming the first book to be crowdfunded on-chain.

Emily Segal is an artist, writer and trend forecaster based in Los Angeles. Co-founder of K-Hole, the now-defunct, normcore-famous trend-forecasting group, she has since gone on to establish Nemesis, a design and strategy consultancy, with Martti Kalliala.

Joana Chicau researches how design and web based computational systems can be used to construct new scenarios, imaginaries and hypotheses guided by choreographic concepts. By privileging open source tools and investigation through feminist lens, Chicau combines real-time algorithmic composition and movement studies to rethink the vocabularies, protocols, modes of participation and conditions for the affective interfacing of bodies and technologies. In this performative lecture, Chicau will share projects that explored modes of archiving, acts of publishing and the questions that emerged.

Joana Chicau is a member of the collective and a lecturer at the University of Arts of London.

Esther Leslie and Edgar Schmitz present materials from the ANIMATE ASSEMBLY project, which centres around a developing glossary of animation, taking account of its manifold presence in the world, its deployment across fields, its overt and covert existences, its histories and relation to ‘futures’. The motivations behind the web glossary and the process of using animation as a research tools are explored in a short presentation, which also covers the extension of the project into print matter. Through reflection and discussion, we will also be generating a new glossary entry around the practice and theory of speed reading.

Edgar Schmitz is an artist who renders escapist backdrops from film, sculpture, animation and writing. His book on Hubs and Fictions (with Sophia Hao) has just been published by Sternberg Press. Schmitz is a Senior Lecturer in Art at Goldsmiths, London.

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London. Her interests lie in the poetics of science and imbrications of politics and technologies.


The symposium is free to attend and all are welcome, but booking is essential. Tickets can be booked via Eventbrite here.


This event is supported by Arts Council England, Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and Liverpool School of Art and Design.


*Image still from: Katie Paterson, ‘Future Library: A Century Unfolds’, 2019.