Supplemental Library: Access to Tools (2012)
Supplemental Library: access to tools, 2012; dimensions variable; mobile bench (re-purposed plywood, pine, bungee cords, wheels), my father's original copies of the "Whole Earth Catalog" (1969-1974), "The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog", books, pamphlets, handouts, migrating donations and material samples; (next page) excerpt from the handout created as a supplement to the Supplemental Library: access to tools
Excerpt from handout:
A timeless blue-green dot floating in the middle of infinite black space.
R. Buckmister Fuller’s “Spaceship Earth”; a single planet, alone but inhabited with the complexity of life. An interconnected system, a “Whole Earth”.
In 1966 “Spaceship Earth” was a sight that had only been seen by a few astronauts, catalyzing Stewart Brand to create a button campaign for public access to these images asking NASA “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” NASA’s release of the images coincided with Brand’s publication of the first issues of the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 and 1969. A preface to the internet, the Whole Earth Catalog was a mix of the philosophical and practical – a guide to accessing both information, tools and materials relevant to the new design, technology and lifestyles emerging at the time. Its supplement (re-named the $1 Whole Earth Catalog), was less formal and more a collection of its readers responses, recommendations, requests and mad musing (the analog version of a comment section on a website). In the Last Whole Earth Catalog (really, the next-to-last catalog as at least two more were published there-after, although not under Brand’s direction) the editors released a complete “How To Do a Whole Earth Catalog” section, detailing the ins and outs of the production and willingly handing off the baton to the next generation of D.I.Y cultural workers.
A sculptural addendum to the Whole Earth Catalog of the 1960s and 1970s, the Supplemental Library (access to tools) and the Material Supplement to the Supplemental Library are a mobile library/archive representing and re-presenting the Catalog's motto "access to tools". Consisting of books (both those recommended by the original Whole Earth Catalog and new, relevant writing) and materials (also both new and old), the library touches upon themes of material knowledge and networked inter-connectivity.
The two Whole Earth Catalogs book-ending the mobile bench were purchased by my father in the late 60s/early 70s; I actually had no idea he even owned the catalogs until this past summer when I asked him casually in passing conversation:
“Hey Dad, have you ever heard of the Whole Earth Catalogs?”
“Have I heard of them?!?”
Although materially fragile due to the wear of time (the catalog’s newsprint pages tear even under the most delicate fingers), I wanted to build my father’s Whole Earth Catalogs and The Whole Earth Catalog Supplements into the mobile of the library itself, incorporating them into the very foundation of the project.
Once you start researching and thinking about something you suddenly see it everywhere, like your brain has suddenly been tuned to a new frequency. Just this past year (2011), David Senior of New York’s MoMA Library organized an exhibition at the MoMA of the Whole Earth Catalogs (Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968–1974, http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/AccesstoTools/). Although I couldn’t personally attend the exhibition, I read Chicago based writer, arts administrator and critic Bryce Dwyer’s post for Chicago arts podcast “Bad at Sports” (http://badatsports.com/2011/a-catalog-of-goods/) which connected the sentiments of the Whole Earth Catalog with the Occupy movement (copies of the Occupied Chicago Tribune are available through the Supplemental Library while supplies last). Bryce’s follow up post on “Bad at Sports” about Brett Bloom and Bonnie Fortune’s blog “Mythological Quarter” led me to their project “Let’s Re-make! (Formerly the Library for Radiant Optimism which has roots in the Whole Earth Catalog and was also initiated in Chicago. With your comments, contributions, requests and recommendations I hope to keep finding and expanding this network of personal, political and material connections from the hub of the Whole Earth Catalog.