Book as Reference: The Immaterial Legacy at MACBA

The Immaterial Legacy - Exhibition Detail. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.
The Immaterial Legacy – Exhibition Detail. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.

‘The Immaterial Legacy’ was an eclectic exhibition held at MACBA, Barcelona between May 2014 to June 2015 which presented artworks from the museum’s collection alongside cultural artefacts from the period (such as music, film, advertising) in order to provide a historical context for the art.

Throughout the exhibition, mounted to the gallery walls, were books deemed relevant to the works they sat alongside. Like the other artefacts on display, the books were a nod towards context, in particular a theoretical or philosophical context.

The Immaterial Legacy - Exhibition View. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.
The Immaterial Legacy – Exhibition View. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.

The books were pinned against the walls with angular hooks at all four corners. The fixtures were subtle enough to allow a full view of the book covers, but distinct enough to have an aesthetic; a slightly DIY look which removed any preciousness that books might have had were they behind glass. The books looked ordinary, as if they had just come from someone’s bookshelf or bedside table.

The Immaterial Legacy - Exhibition Detail. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.
The Immaterial Legacy – Exhibition Detail. Image © Chris Gibson, 2014.

As with exhibitions where books are placed behind glass, these too couldn’t be accessed or read, they were simply there to be noted or acknowledged, perhaps to be looked-up later or reminisced over. It could be aurgued that a note on the wall or a footnote in a gallery text might perform the same function, but for a show that is about contexts, seeing the graphic design, the typography, the size of the book, its condition etc, all influence our perception of the surrounding artworks.

Interestingly, the theme of layering, which can be seen inside the gallery space also continues right through to documentation on the museum’s website, where visitors will find video, documents (including a full bibliography), pictures and even a Spotify playlist. It’s clear that the curatorial choices made extend beyond the walls of the gallery space.


Further Reading:

Macba Collection: A Selection by Museu D’Art Contemporani de Barcelona