Part of Melbourne City Library and SIGNAL 2011 Youth Week program, Provocative Assemblage was a sequence of workshops making small artworks from redundant books from the City Library collection.

The act of destroying a book in the past has been a provocative way of revealing the deeper structure of our collective knowledge / memory systems. This project explored the way library collections are curated. As their content ebb and flow over time, the books that are discarded can provide an interesting way to read the library as a whole as well as reflecting the demands and interests of the communities that they serve.


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The workshop began with a provocative act of slicing a discarded book with a large guillotine and reinserting them back onto the library shelves. This was intended to enact a metaphor to make visible the effect book weeding has on the library collection. Inspired by Joseph Beuys who sought to heal complex systems through artist interventions based on the concept of homeopatht, the intention of  this intervention was to ‘quickly peel off the band-aid’ so to speak and set in motion discussions around the universal transition to digital media.


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Over two weeks, the City Library Gallery was transformed into a workshop space – inviting participants to transform discarded books into artworks.


‘Provocative Assemblage’ transformed the gallery into a workshop – creating a place for play and experimentation with redundant books from the City Library collection.  The resultant artworks were action based – creatively directed toward the central question of how information is ordered in the Dewey Decimal System and the relation of this to the deep structure of society.




As part of a final exhibition, these works were reinserted back into the library as a way to question knowledge systemisation. The gallery acted as a catalogue for the works placed within the City Library collection shelves, where visitors were invited to seek them out via their Dewey Decimal call number or by chance and thereby engaging with the library in a new way.


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Great to see your project in action today. What a hive of activity and production. Very peculiar instruments and devices – the evidence of mad inventors at work. I loved the energy there in the space being overtaken by a guild of makers. I feel inspired by the connection of response of each work and their sensitivity towards the each book – “book becomes art object” – that in itself provides a wonderful synergy and reflection. And the seek and find aspect to the project that considers the integration of each work created, by reinserting them back into a relevant space within the library collection. This conjures a relevant context for the memory of their absence and also the rebirthing of the books. Laine Hogerty, Artist.


Thanks to Fiona Hillary from Signal. Leonee Derr; Jeanette Becklar and Ashley Higgs from Melbourne City Library.