After Alexandria Redux

Grayson James

More keepsakes from the show at the Ryerson Image Centre: After Alexandria

One muses that this show about books and the traces people leave in them could reference the Alexandria of history’s great library. Or something else.

Recto – Image of woman’s lap with open book and writing implement in hand

Grayson James - keepsake - after alexandria - recto

One is somehow allusively drawn to comparisons with Barthes musings about a photograph of his mother in Camera Lucida given the project springs from a period of loneliness and is housed in a gallery devoted to the photographic image.

Verso – Image of a book with some of its pages yet to be cut. A verbal accompaniment.

Grayson James - keepsake - after alexandria - verso


I read scratched covers of books like
a seer reads palms. I see futures and
pasts in the traces left by those who read
before me. I read the wavering line on a
library book’s page, and I read it hoping
to hear someone call my name.

Grayson, are you there?

I find you here in the repeated tumble of next stages:

After Alexandria hopes to recreate this experience. Leading up to and throughout the exhibition, people are invited to recommend books to me that in some way relate to their experiences of loneliness (for example, a book you read while lonely, or one you enjoyed about loneliness, or made you feel less lonely). I will then reproduce these books and bring them into the gallery, creating our own library. The books will be available for anyone to read, to write in, or, if so inclined, to bring home for themselves. A workspace with pens, pencils, and Post-it notes will be provided, so that readers can intervene in the books how they choose. I will intermittently photocopy some of these interventions, and hang them on the gallery wall. Viewers are invited to photocopy and hang interventions as well, creating a collaborative installation that indexes the ways these books become containers of a shared social experience. At the end of the exhibition, I will document a selection of these interventions, and produce a new publication from them.

I became interested in this project at a point in my life when I was experiencing a loneliness unlike any I had before. As an avid reader, I found myself turning to literature to mitigate these feelings. I began to read books almost exclusively borrowed from the library. These books were marked-up, damaged, dog-eared, and coffee-stained. It is through the bodily experience of encountering other readers through the traces that they left behind that I began to think of these books as a medium through which I was able to engage with others. Their notes had gravity, reminding me that as alone as I might feel, I am actually part of a broader conversation, of a micro-history, and of a community that supports me in ways that are impossible to articulate.

And so for day 2618

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