You are invited to join Objectspace to celebrate the opening of two new exhibitions, 'Ex Libris' and 'Elizabeth Lissaman: the Art of Pottery'. For more information on 'Elizabeth Lissaman: the Art of Pottery' click here.

Celebrating three specialist, purpose-designed and soon to be closed University of Auckland libraries. Photography by Samuel Hartnett, publication edited by Anna Miles and Lucy Treep. The Ex Libris exhibition and publication celebrate three specialist University of Auckland libraries designed as purpose-built learning environments to support education and scholarship in the creative arts. In June 2018 the University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor announced that these libraries would close and their collections would be consolidated within the General Library on Alfred Street. In this process, 45 full-time library staff will lose their jobs. The Elam School of Fine Arts, The School of Architecture & Planning and the School of Music & Dance will lose architecturally-designed libraries adjacent to their teaching spaces.

Photographer, Samuel Hartnett was approached to make a record of the three libraries. Ex Libris: Regarding Three Libraries, the publication that accompanies his exhibition reflects these places of “eureka discoveries and infinite possibilities,” including a history of each library, record of the specialist librarians who have tended them, and the action by current students in response to the imminent loss of these spaces. The contributors are Sait Akkirman, Rachel Ashby, Kathryn Aucamp, Sebastian Clarke, Warren Drake, Elena Lochore-Ward, Anna Miles, Victoria Passau, Nova Paul, Tim Sumner, Lucy Treep, Brian Flaherty, Raukura Turei, Stephen Turner, Linda Tyler and Jane Wild.

The three purpose-designed library buildings, built between 1962 and 1986, represent a spectrum of different architectural languages and visions. As Sebastian Clarke writes, “There is the modest 1960s structure that expanded and grew concrete fins, the open-plan pagoda designed in the 1970s, and the flamboyant piano of the 1980s that rocked Symonds Street”.

Intriguingly, Hartnett avoids the heroic architectural shot. In his carefully-pruned selection of 12 photographs, it is almost impossible to differentiate one library from another.

Hartnett’s photographs remind us of the private experience of public space — and that a precondition of ‘private experience’ is having time to spend in communal space. He is captivated by the human patina of these spaces. He finds clefts dug in the doors of the Architecture Library by passing fingernails; a patch of carpet reputedly rubbed out by the heels of a long-serving librarian; graffiti and crumbs in a carrel. Institutional banality is not omitted — the sequence features an overflowing pot plant stain on a filing cabinet. He unashamedly intermingles the sensuous and the bureaucratic.

This exhibition has been made on the basis of a question: How to photograph a library that is closing? Hartnett’s photographs allude to the “blissful” stretches of time students once spent in the libraries that were effectively curtailed by the 1992 advent of the student loan.

What will be missed most is not the libraries but the cultural creation that they have enshrined.

Objectspace

  • 13 Rose Road
  • Ponsonby, Auckland 1021