Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Elisa Lee & Adam Hinshaw in Residence at University of Technology Sydney Library

This feature first appeared on the LAIP in October 2015.

We are very pleased to welcome artists Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw to the site today. Elisa and Adam were the 2014 artists-in-residence at the University of Technology Sydney Library (check out our writeup on Chris Gaul, UTS Library’s 2012 artist-in-residence), where the duo’s work investigates the Library Retrieval System. ~Laura

From the UTS Library website:

The LRS is UTS Library’s state-of-the-art underground storage system, which stores books, journals and objects in 11,808 steel storage bins, hidden five stories below Alumni Green.

The artists posed some exciting questions. What happens when you visualise the interaction between organic human behaviour and a rigid mechanical storage system? What narratives and patterns are formed or imagined? What behaviours and insights can be deduced? The outcomes are constantly in flux, determined by the users of the LRS and the items contained within it.

Both a visual and an audio work were created.

Visualising the Library Retrieval System

11-808 is a playful visualisation of the movements of books and objects requested and returned from the LRS. Each time an item is moved we see its “catalogue card” fly in or out of the bin where it’s located, with the bin adopting the colour of the subject area that the item belongs to. For example, books in the social sciences are blue. The colours are inspired by the Collection Ribbon in the Library Catalogue.

The colours build up on the sides of the display, showing the accumulation and order of all transactions for the time period. Current LRS activity is overlaid in real-time, as items are requested and returned.

Video installation capturing the Library Retrieval System (LRS) at UTS Library.

Video installation capturing the Library Retrieval System (LRS) at UTS Library.

Over sixty minutes, you can witness the LRS activity across the last three hours, twenty-four hours, three days, one week, two weeks and four weeks, with the vantage point shifting every four minutes.

By viewing the title of objects, their subject category and the time in which they are requested, we can build an intriguing picture of how the LRS is being used.

Read and hear more about Elisa and Adam’s works on the UTS Library website.

Questions and Answers with Elisa and Adam:

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): What initially attracted you to the residency at the UTS Library?

Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw (EL & AH): The opportunity to learn from and to collaborate with library staff, to have the creative space and time to explore a project thoroughly, and finally, to investigate the innovative Library Retrieval System and the context in which it is used.

LAIP: Logistically, how did you go about “investigating” the library retrieval system?

EL & AH: We had great discussions with key library staff about the roles of libraries within universities, why the LRS was introduced and how it was integral to the vision of what a library is and can provide for its ‘clients’.

We asked lots and lots of questions and were taken through in detail how the system worked from a client user experience, operations and technical point of view, how items were chosen to be stored there, how the content was accessed through the online database, how the book was physically located by the robots… All of this informed our understanding of the system and allowed us to imaginatively explore this space.

LAIP: Based on your experience at UTS Library, what do you think libraries offer for artists in residence? What did UTS do to make this a positive experience for you?

EL & AH: 

Libraries are a rich repository of knowledge through the contents they contain and the people who work with and use the collections. It is wonderful for artists to have the chance to play in this area and to give their own insights.

UTS made this a positive experience by being very open to collaboration. For us to complete this project, we needed to liaise with staff members, in particular the IT department who facilitated analysis of the database and then provided us with a data feed of content required.

Learn more about the UTS Library Artist in Residence Program, or visit

from Library as Incubator Project

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