Mobile Feminist Library Van – Interview with Kristin Luke

van2IMG_20190209_153031The Feminist Library has recently collaborated with artist Kristin Luke to create the Mobile Feminist Library! Kristin converted the van by hand to create a mobile community library, and worked with Feminist Library volunteers, particularly our Artist in Residence Minna Haukka, to fill it with a selection of books, zines and periodicals.

The van will be popping up as part of the exhibition Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 2 at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea on 2 March, 3 April, 18 & 25 – 27 May, with more dates and locations to be announced.

One of our Trustees, Anna Pigott interviewed Kristin about the project:

How did you come up with the idea of a mobile Feminist Library?

For a long time I have been interested in how networks, long-term collaborations, radical pedagogy, archives, and their intersection with feminist politics, could better inform my own work. I gave a lot of thought to how I could make my practice, which spans sculpture, architecture, and film, more useful to these causes. I also looked back at the history of mobile education, from the Women’s Packhorse Library Network of the Appalachians to Jo Spence’s mobile photography darkroom. I decided that I wanted to created a mobile platform, or environment, which could transport and keep alive precarious bodies of knowledge, whether they are printed, performed, filmed, etc, and take them to locations potentially quite unlikely and remote. I wanted to do this as a distinctly counter-patriarchal approach to the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. I approached the Feminist Library because I instantly felt this could be a very exciting combination, especially after meeting Minna Haukka (the FL’s artist in residence), and seeing how she was really bringing the collection to life.

Is it similar to work you have made before?

I have definitely made a lot of physical work that combines architecture and multi-functional furniture. I have designed and built entire furnished living spaces for previous art projects, so the idea of making a self-contained environment was fairly familiar to me. But I’ve never worked on a project over such an extended period of time, or that could potentially involve quite so many different collaborators, which is very exciting. And I’ve never worked on a project involving a vehicle before.

Where are you planning to take it?

Our first stop was the De La Warr Pavilion, for the opening of the exhibition Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 2. We will return to this location several more times. Minna Haukka and I are in the process of setting out the schedule for the mobile library as we speak – this will include art and educational institutions, schools, literary festivals, and even some quite remote, wild locations. I am interested in the healthy complexities that might arise from sharing these texts in places that might not be as familiar with them.

How will you be recording its progress?

The full route for the van will be documented and announced on this interactive map, so keep an eye out for upcoming stops.

What have people’s reactions been so far?

People’s reactions have been a really interesting combination of pangs of nostalgia, curiosity, a genuine enjoyment of the sensory experience of being inside the van, and the excitement of being able to pick up these books and journals which might otherwise be under glass or not allowed to be removed from a library. I think people have had this feeling, especially at the De La Warr Pavilion, that the van is this kind of secret environment where something unusual is happening, which is operating on its own terms, which is a fundamentally different way to encounter knowledge than in a school, university, gallery, etc. Many people have also felt that the mobile FL collection would really activate and complement the events and exhibitions that they are running too – it’s great that they want to further engage with it in a meaningful way, and keep this momentum going by sharing it with others.

What’s your favourite feature of the van?

That it has a piece of Snowdonia slate as a cover for the cooker. And the 5-way expanding sofa.

Kristin Luke (b.1984, Los Angeles, lives in Snowdonia) is an artist whose sculptural, written, and filmic work spans the themes of radical pedagogy, utopianism, forms of feminist resistance, and magical thinking in late capitalism. Her work and collaborative projects have been included in programmes at the De La Warr Pavilion, Somerset House, ANDOR, Bas Fisher Invitational (Miami), and New Shelter Plan (Copenhagen). She helped revive the journal Schooling & Culture in collaboration with May Day Rooms and The Showroom, and was an Open School East associate.

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