New York

David Bunn

Brooke Alexander

Mining what might be described as a poetics of the archive, David Bunn’s current project is a byproduct of the rapid conversion within our culture from printed information into bits of electronic data. His works are built from an increasingly antiquated artifact: the library card catalogue. “Here, There and (Nearly) Everywhere,” his first solo exhibition in New York, grew out of his permanent installation at the newly renovated and computerized Los Angeles Central Library. Having rescued some two million card entries from the shredder, Bunn used them as raw material to cover the walls of the library’s elevator with literary works of poetic fancy.

In the works on view here—including wall pieces, artist’s hooks, and one video—Bunn perused the subject headings to cull successions of titles into texts that range from melancholic odes to deadpan truisms. The poems, typed on stationery, hang next to (but are framed separately from) the cards whose titles they appropriate, which are pasted one above the other. In There’s Always Adventure (all works 1997), for instance, a comedy, a memoir, and a collection of poetry provide an eloquent verse that inspires the reader’s subjective associations about love and life: “There’s always adventure/There’s always another windmill/There’s always Juliet.”

This installation also introduces poems composed from the discarded sheaf catalogue (bound in volumes) of the Liverpool Central Library. Arranging the entries in groupings reminiscent of chapters, Bunn created a discursive interplay between the American and English catalogues. For example, two works with the same title, The Sea Is a Magic Carpet, list the books from both libraries beginning with “The Sea Is . . .” The Los Angeles catalogue gives nine entries, the Liverpool five. Not only do the works suggest qualitatively different moods and sentiments (one a majestic paean to freedom and possibility, the other a melancholic reflection on loss and emptiness), but their quantitative disparity intimates the degree of subjective and cultural selectivity that determines the scope of a repository such as a library, no matter how encyclopedic it aspires to be.

Bunn’s desire to present his card-catalogue artworks not only as poetry but as reflections of cultural values is evident in a pair of mural-size works: Doors and Beatles. A kind of battle of the hands, the work is filled with suggestive incidences open to various interpretations. The cards for the Beatles include entries for books of photographs, souvenir programs, histories, biographies, discographies, and so on. The Doors suite, on the other hand, is a gateway into a polyvalent universe of physics, poetry, music, architecture, and design; one finds not only hooks on Jim Morrison and company, but monographs on Romanesque doors, Marion Parks’ Doors of Yesterday, and a myriad of other titles, including Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, the inspiration for the band’s name and a literary touchstone of their era.

Bunn underscores the infinite complexity within the archive. Presented as framed drawings, juxtapositions metamorphose from simple coincidence into objects of contemplation. When the artist recites his work under the dome of the Liverpool library, in the video included in this show, he seems engulfed by the vast pool of knowledge in the surrounding stacks. And when Bunn finally goes full circle and reconstitutes as hooks the poems and the cards from which they are drawn, binding them into colorful volumes in library buckram, the titles, no longer a functioning microcosm of the data stream, return to the literary. An oeuvre of transformation, Bunn’s work reinserts the obsolete artifact back into the world as a living archive of reverie.

Kirby Gookin