Client: City of San Jose Public Art Program
Location: San Jose, CA, United States
Completion date: 2007
Artwork budget: $920,000
Sited throughout the 450,000 s.f. library, 34 artworks pay homage to the book collections. The pieces were each designed to provoke interest and curiosity, encouraging exploration and circulation. The projects vary from large and dramatic sculptures, to intimate and subtle insertions that require numerous visits to discover. Some of the concepts are invested with humor, while others are designed for contemplation. All of the artworks are site-specific; their adjacency to the book collections adds context and contributes wonder and meaning to the user experience.
Pieces most relevant to "The Written Word" follow:
Babel: Inspired by Brueghel’s Tower of Babel, two parallel walls in the Government Periodical section have been transformed into a mediation on the monumental and reflective nature of language.
Fiction/Fiction: As in many great mystery novels, the popular fiction section contains a secret rotating bookcase -- one side stocked with faux books, the other side with new titles.
Rosetta: The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799. Its trilingual inscription made it possible to decipher hieroglyphics. Rosetta’s glass face is etched with the inscription from the original artifact. Appearing from behind the glass is fleeting digital messages, writings and announcements.
Skeptacle: A giant bookcase for graduate thesis volumes by generations of San José State students. Skeptacle honors the boundless investigation of the thesis authors, and their industrious, creative and intellectual productivity.
Wise Cracks: The glass windows on the bridge located near the Art and Art History Section appear cracked. On closer scrutiny, the cracks match those in Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). Closer inspection reveals the lines as jokes and puns, sand-blasted into the glass. Duchamp shattered art-making tradition, using puns, and irony to emphasize the conceptual over the retinal.
Mel Chin's artistic process is highly collaborative in nature. For this project his collaborators included a multi-disciplinary team of scholars, researchers, librarians, architects and university students. His methodology also involved an extensive process of community consultation and participation. Through numerous community forums throughout San Jose, the artist facilitated discussions on a wide spectrum of personal and civic issues that inspired the artwork concepts. These discussions involved participants from a diverse range of race, age and socio-economic backgrounds. In some cases, artworks are the implementation of creative concepts delivered by talented students of San Jose State University and Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.