We, The Body Library

We, The Body Library, have spent this last year devoting our practice to making connections with strangers in public settings by dismantling anonymity and giving hope to the public by sharing a moment. We do this by initiating action and communication in order to further stimulate a sense of community and devotion to bearing witness to the world around us.


The first performance of The Body Library (Stealing Feelings & Apologizing) was completed on Sunday, October 6th, and has been performed over a dozen times since. As a performative action The Body Library utilizes public settings to initiate interactions between us and the public; further creating actions, conversations, or simple gestures that allow us to bear witness to the affect of a stranger and vice-versa. During this performance our representative Tommy Coleman stands in a location while wearing a tunic-like canvas apron that reads “THE BODY LIBRARY”  on both the front and back. The apron is constructed with 6 individual pockets; 2 pockets on either back shoulder, 3 pockets at waist-height on the front, and 1 large centralized pocket on the chest.


These pockets hold up to 18 copies of a hand-made book produced by The Body Library in an edition of 100. The book, titled Stealing Feelings & Apologizing, consists of 2 essays; The first essay details our explanation of finding Jan Verwoert’s essay You Make Me Feel Mighty Real., and just how it has inspired us to take action. Our introductory essay explains how Verwoert’s body of text has moved us and motivated us to the point of creation- inspiring us to follow the text, and use its knowledge to inspire others. We recount our experience of first reading the essay, falling in love with it, seeking its origin, and finally finding the book that the body of text came from (Verwoert’s Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want.) and how we then liberated it from The New York Public Library as to actively disperse it ourselves. Verwoert’s writing dissects the artists role to create, and how the act of bearing witness to the act of creation or its process inspires culture; further explaining the significance behind making objects, creating experiences, and what is the importance of these two virtues within our society.
The second essay is a page-for-page photocopy recreation of Verwoert’s You Make Me Feel Mighty Real., complete with The Body Library’s scribbles, underlines, and notes.

We use this book as a way to create connections with the public; turning strangers into audience, turning audience into participants. By allowing the public to remove this writing from the apron of the body wearing it, we engage in an act of performance that makes connections with society, initiating community and affect in the public around us in order to share an experience.

The Body LibraryThe Body Library Sandwich Board: Let’s Talk About…Plywood, Laser Cut Luan Ply, and Hardware20” x 20” x 36”2013   A sandwich board constructed for another ongoing performance where a representative of The Body Library wears The Body Library Apron while standing in a public setting, inviting conversations from strangers about varied topics which displayed on the sandwich board. The topics are changed at intervals allowing for new conversations/experiences. The performer is positioned to take on the role of a sympathizers, a consultant, a therapist, or just a listening body to bear witness to the others struggles or feelings. 
(There are 30 topics in all.)

The Body Library
The Body Library Sandwich Board: Let’s Talk About…
Plywood, Laser Cut Luan Ply, and Hardware
20” x 20” x 36”
2013 
 
 
A sandwich board constructed for another ongoing performance where a representative of The Body Library wears The Body Library Apron while standing in a public setting, inviting conversations from strangers about varied topics which displayed on the sandwich board. The topics are changed at intervals allowing for new conversations/experiences. The performer is positioned to take on the role of a sympathizers, a consultant, a therapist, or just a listening body to bear witness to the others struggles or feelings. 

(There are 30 topics in all.)

Below is the introduction for “Stealing Feelings & Apologizing”,
the zine/book that was distributed to strangers during the performance entitled “The Body Library”. 

In 2012 I was deconstructed, broken down by the ever-grinding wheel of today, tomorrow, and yesterday; I had succumb to life as a sentence rather than a mindset to find opportunities. Sound was made mute, and the cold wind of winter was the most social aspect of my entire life- I was 25 and barely alive; I was sad.

I was sad, but not like Bastiaan was, nor was I sad like Gregg was, or even Felix; I was just Sad, my own kind of insufferable darkness. I had become this middle, the deepest gray, I felt like I slept through the morning of my life and woke up without a hunger for anything. My body became my cage, my room became my cave, and my hands had become the only company I could keep. During those winter months I was introduced to Jan by way of a sympathetic third party and in that moment I knew I wasn’t on my own. Jan was something new for me, my first in many ways.
Jan understood me and spoke to me in ways I couldn’t have fathomed; he took the feelings that had been exiled within me and made them social. Spending time with Jan wasn’t anything like all those years I spent with Roland. Roland brought out all of my darkness and made me think of it as some kind of adventure, but the only downside to this adventure is that it had no foreseeable end or goal- it was simply terrifying.

I had been reeling from loss on all fronts; a loss of appetite, of heart, of love, of self, of soul, of sincerity- I forgot all of what I had ever been taught and I swiftly realized the time I had spent with Roland made me this kind of self-effacing monster. Where Roland had written about being engulfed, anxiety, and suicide, Jan was writing about connecting, sharing, and being together no matter what disconnect- whether it was known or not. I had only spent a month with Jan, but I knew it was the kind of connection that motivated me to be something more. It connected me to myself; it made sense of the all of the confusion. This internal affirmation was the first time I had felt a change so heavily- I was in love. 

Before I knew it I was talking to everyone about Jan- I told my associates, my daily companions, the people I had been calling friends for many years, past lovers, I even told my parents- I showed my mother and father Jan and they spoke sweetly of their own connections to life. I knew I could find Jan in everything, but most importantly I found the things he had said and written in myself, in my practice, and that’s what mattered most. Jan gave me confidence. 

I knew that this connection was the kind of thing that would influence not only my everyday, but also the everyday of those around me. I began to show everyone how Jan made me feel real, and how I wanted all of my friends, enemies, admirers, and lovers to feel as real as I did. I wanted to affect everyone with the feelings that had been shooting through me. I knew it was my time to give back to everyone who had felt his or her own grayness soaking through.

I went to The New York Public Library, and searched, digging through collections, walking through stacks, and finally I had found it. I found where Jan came from, it was here in the almost unbroken spine of “TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT.” That I had found the body of text that had taken me by the heart so firmly. Appropriately titled “YOU MAKE ME FEEL MIGHTY REAL”, it was gray, with perfectly parted margins, and type large enough so I could read it up-close as well as from afar, just like copy that had been given to me. I knew this book was the one, it was where Jan Verwoert had come from, and I knew I had to have it. This was mine, and what I did next was something that was almost unthinkable to myself.

I effortlessly placed Jan in my backpack, sandwiched between my old tattered copy of Roland Barthes “A Lover’s Discourse”(also dressed in gray) and Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” (my old love from High School), and began pacing towards the door. I walked through the halls, keeping in pace with the rhythm of my heartbeat. I was calm, I knew that Jan was mine- and it meant more to me to be able to have it so I could share him with the ones who needed him. I knew by the look of his spine he had just sat there ages, maybe two years, may more- not being put to work in the manner I knew he was so very capable of. As I edged closer to the door I saw my escape that was aptly book-ended by security detectors that would surely become my missions’ downfall. I kept my speed, stepping ever closer to this exit, and as I crossed the threshold all of crippling echoes of alarms began to chime out as if my end had come- and doing what any being with a heart full of fervor would do, I ran. 

It was February and I was running through the coldest air I had felt in ages, filling my lungs with a sharp frost that would render anyone without a mission like mine unable to move, let alone run.

It wasn’t stealing, it was taking with purpose- I knew I had to give Jan to everyone I could, and maybe eventually, after I successfully completed my mission, I’d give Jan back to The New York Public Library. This small booklet is a testament to an idea I feel every day- It’s an idea of labor being an act of love. I am The Body Library, and I have feelings. Maybe you’ll feel as I feel, maybe one day you’ll fall in love. All I can ask is that you give this to someone when you’re done with it. Copy it. Give it away. Remember that when you see that stranger on the train whose eyes are half hollow and gray, they too are feeling things and need to be reminded of the beauty of experience. I want you to feel as I have felt, the good and the bad.

This is Jan Verwoert’s essay entitled “YOU MAKE ME FEEL MIGHTY REAL”, and I want you to remember that you should live your life with the challenge of instigating the unreal- make experiences happen.

Sincerely,
The Body Library