Much of what we experience on the Internet parallels how the brain functions. Independently working entities connect like a web, a network, an ecosystem. In this vast online space of seemingly global information, the notion of open source forces one to ask what is “open” and “free,” from the dynamic and virtual environments we share down to the numbers and letters we use to communicate. But what happens when free virtual matter manifests in the physical world? How does that material translate in real life? And how should we assign value?
In 2012, the ZERO1 Biennial commissioned Bay Area-based artist and educator Stephanie Syjuco to create the site-specific installation Free Texts: An Open Source Reading Room—an analog version of an online open source library. The artist herself was part of the installation; she sat at a desk with a lamp, laptop, and HP LaserJet printer. All of this was arranged next to a wall of various sized flyers that mimicked lost pet notices, except the tear-away strips were printed with URL codes instead of a phone number. The words “Free Text” appeared directly above a selection of readymade bound books placed on the table for visitors’ casual perusal; they included art history and critical theory texts such as Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig, and Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons.” For visitors who expressed profound interest in a specific text, Syjuco offered on demand printing and bookbinding.
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art21 July / August 2013 Issue // "Networks" // Blogger-in-Residency