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Book as Biography: The British Library, Yinka Shonibare

The British Library, installation view, Tate Modern. Artwork by Yinka Shonibare. Photo © Chris Gibson, 2019

The British Library is a large and colourful artwork by Yinka Shonibare which comprises a huge collection of specially bound reclaimed books, covered in vibrant Dutchwax fabric and embossed in gold with the names of notable British figures who were born outside the UK or have non-British ancestry.

The volume of books and the number of well-known names is surprising, drawing our attention to the rich and expansive impact migrants have had on British daily life and culture, a debt that sometimes seems overlooked to me.

The British Library, installation view, Tate Modern. Artwork by Yinka Shonibare. Photo © Chris Gibson, 2019
The British Library, installation view, Tate Modern. Artwork by Yinka Shonibare. Photo © Chris Gibson, 2019
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Book as Bibliography: Valises, Raymond Hains

The artist Raymond Hains plays an interesting game with us in his artwork Valises; an installation which comprises a utilitarian metal shelving system stacked with box files, metal Airbus cases and plastic packing crates filled with books and index cards.

Valises, Raymond Hains. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017
Valises, Raymond Hains – Installation View. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

The index cards that are visible read like an essay on a particular topic – could they be notes for a presentation (or references for a thesis) and the books themselves be the source material? The box files, which are closed to us, may contain papers of a manuscript and the metal cases could be full of real objects; artefacts to be presented.

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