Artists in the Archives: A Collection of Card Catalogs

On a recent afternoon, Carla Rae Johnson riffled through an array of cards in one of the narrow wooden drawers of a card catalog at the Greenburgh Public Library. But she wasn’t doing research, and the cards she was examining had nothing to do with books. She was inspecting her installation, the “Alternet,” a 50-drawer card catalog that she repurposed to hold more than 15,000 three-by-five-inch works of original visual art. “The Alternet,” by Carla Rae Johnson, holds more than 15,000 pieces of original work.

The 50-drawer card catalog of "The Alternet" includes work by 75 artists.

The 50-drawer card catalog of “The Alternet” includes work by 75 artists.

The “Alternet” is one of three side-by-side installations that make up “Artists in the Archives: A Collection of Card Catalogs,” an exhibition that revitalizes library tools rendered obsolete by digital technology in the mid-1990s. Each installation includes a card catalog filled with art: the “Alternet” consists of works by 75 artists, “Book Marks” is the creation of a single artist, and “The Call to Everyone” contains contributions by several hundred members of the public.

“The Call to Everyone,” a work in progress, was conceived by JoAnne Wilcox, a photographer who lives in Westville, Conn. She invited the public to take cellphone photographs and then, following her detailed instructions, print them onto selections from her collection of now-antiquated cards and submit them to the project. To date, she has accumulated about 1,000 pieces (including her own), which she has randomly interspersed in a 25-drawer catalog among multitudes of as-yet-unadorned, cream-colored cards. Read more.

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Posted in DRAFT - Repeat

by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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