JCDecaux, Rachel Margetts
23/5/15, Manchester Central Library, Manchester, sequential performances by other artists under the banner JCDecaux.
The JCDecaux project “My Books Are Your Books” culminated in a booklet, a live performance and an isolated produced recording which re-enacts the performance. “My Books Are Your Books” engaged with the politics surrounding its theme of the de- materialisation of text and the privatisation of libraries.
The austerity program of 2010 in the UK introduced a large numbers of cuts to social and public services. Some 343 libraries closed during this period; many others have undergone the process of privatisation. Libraries are now working with commercial partners such as Google to digitalise text. Google’s ambition is to digitise every book ever printed. By making digitised books freely available, they claim to ensure that no other library is disadvantaged and that there are as few obstacles to access as possible. However many of these texts are being sold back to libraries by these private companies with a profit incentive. Between 2010 and 2015, homelessness increased in Britain by 102%. These two crises met in May 2015 when the homeless population of Manchester decided to collectivise and camp outside Manchester’s grand central library. Whilst using the public toilets, five members of the homeless camp were without warning forcibly removed by the library’s private G4S security guards.
“My Books are Your Books” turned a public art event in the central library into a space where these two issues could be raised in conjunction with each other. The forcible removal of homeless people from the library made the privatisation of the space hugely visible. In my audio-visual performance piece in which I used books from the library as sonic sculptures, this privatisation of space and sequential de-materialisation of books was addressed. These sonic sculptures were played to score an original video piece which looked at the historical visual relationships we have with text. As a counterpoint to the performance, I also created a booklet discussing the political implications of library closures and compiled artists’ creative responses to this topic. I handed this booklet out for free after the performance.
JCDecaux has developed a narrative, functioning as a non-hierarchical collection of artistic thought and practice which responds to a site specific event. After the event, the organisation of this thought dissipates leaving only material documents and an appropriated name. However, in a Situationist inspired manner, the organisation will be taken up by a new participant and supported by the previous organiser.