Library as Memorial is at the centre of artist Ruth Beale’s commission for Kilburn Library. Taking the form of a book dedication, in which books themselves become a way to mark and remember.
The London Borough of Brent was the worst hit area in the UK, with the highest overall Covid-19 mortality rate during the height of the pandemic. A bookplate has been placed in 491 books, one for every victim of Coronavirus in the borough up to September 2020. The public are invited to visit the library and add a dedication, or email requests for names to be added. Books have been carefully selected from across the borough's libraries, and will later be redistributed across Brent, and loaned across London as part of the London Library Consortium.
Alongside the memorial is Holding Breath, a new film work documenting Brent’s libraries during lockdown. Like many public spaces, libraries were closed to their communities and their public use for reading, study, work and meeting suspended. Mostly devoid of people, the libraries are dormant, expectant, whilst signs of former use, and preparations for reopening, are revealed in the details. A voiceover inspired by conversations with young people in Brent during lockdown, is read by Ayan Abdi, a member of Brent Youth Parliament.
The commission is a response to the changing nature of public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic, and has grown out of Beale's engagement with Kilburn Library, and a series of creative workshops with young people from Brent Youth Parliament, exploring their experiences of lockdown and hopes for the world as it reopens.
Bookplate design by Europa.
Camera and edit by Reuben Henry.
Ruth Beale is a London-based artist with a long-standing interest in collaborative production, exploring implications in culture, governance, social discourse and representation. She also works in collaboration with Amy Feneck as The Alternative School of Economics.
Exhibitions and projects include ‘The Library of Future Societies’ (2015-2018), first staged at the ICA in London in the weeks following the UK general election, and featuring a collection of books borrowed from London public libraries, and ’The Free and the Unfree, (2018-2010), a commission with Mansions of the Future and prisoners at HMP Lincoln.
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Photography courtesy of Thierry Bal