Plunder The Influence reflects my ongoing interest in collaboration as well as what people collect and how it influences their lives and work. With an eye toward generating something appropriate for The Story Tellers exhibition and its context -- a reading room filled with bookshelves empty of books -- I extended an invitation to people who have influenced my life and work to share visual and written documentation of how they consume, live with, and/or work near books.
Myriad story lines about collecting and influence weave throughout the responses I received, which number over one hundred. I asked those who agreed to participate to submit “candid” photos, if you will, of the current state of their influence trees, as well as brief written vignettes in response to what they saw and captured. Unlike a family tree, which changes with the pace of births and partnerings, what one looks at and reads tends to shift far more frequently. No image could be "the" authoritative or exhaustive bibliography to anyone’s work and career. Still, despite the frequent flux in one’s bookshelf and the bodies of work those books may influence, certain visual and conceptual interests often persist.
I have been fascinated to look at and read about what is on the frequently consulted bookshelf or in the stack of books on the living room, bedroom, or studio floor of people who have influenced me. I hope viewers and readers of the blog will find these submissions as fascinating as I do. Thanks to the generous candor of these influential individuals, I suspect that after reading and examining their bookshelves, you may feel as if you know these people well enough to have a conversation and engage in the gift economy embodied by book recommendations. Each submission is open to comments to encourage these kinds of connections.
I requested that participants resist self-conscious straightening up of bookshelves, or the neatening, rearranging or (gasp) doing away entirely with, piles of books on the floor or other surfaces that might otherwise show in their photos. Such premeditated arrangements could reflect one's self image rather than offer an authentic view into the working process of influence. That being said, we all have the right to control what information goes out about us (at least directly from us) and thus how participants self-represented through the influences that have come and stuck via books was ultimately up to each individual. Some chafed against the parameters I tossed out to get the ball rolling, and others dutifully stayed within bounds, but nearly all remarked that they got something out of the process of thinking about their relationships with books and seeing themselves reflected in this manner.
Observing how others locate, consume, ruminate over, align themselves with or chafe against things seen, read, and heard about is instructive at minimum, life-changing at maximum. You can click through the following images to see how this project was installed in multiple exhibition spaces, and/or click click here to read individual contributor's essay and see all photos