Fifty-two weeks of Transactions



Kathy Slade under­took a 52-week per­for­mance, begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber 2006, result­ing in a unique book­work. Once a week, on an appointed day and time, she vis­ited the Van­cou­ver Pub­lic Library to choose and bor­row a book. Each trans­ac­tion receipt, which clearly states the date, time and book title, was dig­i­tally scanned and saved. Because the receipts are printed on ther­mal paper, they will slowly fade. At the end of the year, these doc­u­ments from the per­for­mance were assem­bled into an artists’ book that was donated to the Van­cou­ver Pub­lic Library Spe­cial Collections.

This project is at once sim­ple and com­plex. It touches on numer­ous on-going themes in Slade’s prac­tice and responds to the con­tract of exchange between the bor­row­ing indi­vid­ual and lend­ing insti­tu­tion. A dossier of her move­ments once a week, for one year, Fifty-two Weeks is a self-portrait formed by the artist’s selec­tion of mate­ri­als to con­sume. This ordi­nar­ily pri­vate trans­ac­tion is pre­sented for the spec­u­la­tion of the viewer – did she, in fact, read the books? Was her choice influ­enced through the knowl­edge that it would be made pub­lic? Is there sig­nif­i­cance in the sequence of her list, does it con­tain a sec­ondary index beyond the chrono­log­i­cal record? How might these bor­rowed books have influ­enced her think­ing, her next choice, her actions? Are her choices cor­rect, or triv­ial, or pointed?

Through invert­ing the terms of the lend­ing pol­icy, by dis­clos­ing what library pro­ce­dures guard as pri­vate, Fifty-two Weeks draws atten­tion to the rou­tine and every­day nego­ti­a­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal sur­veil­lance by indi­vid­u­als and by insti­tu­tions. Encour­ag­ing our spec­u­la­tion as to her read­ing choices, Slade sets up an expec­ta­tion that we might learn more about her by track­ing her trans­ac­tions. Her weekly vis­its, each indi­cat­ing a new page, accu­mu­late in a ser­ial, pre­dictable pat­tern of behav­iour – the per­formed cre­ation of a book.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Trapp Edi­tions, an off­set ver­sion of the project “52 Trans­ac­tions” was pro­duced and dis­trib­uted internationally.

Photos: Scott Massey. Group Search was made pos­si­ble through the invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions of The Canada Coun­cil for the Arts, the BC Arts Coun­cil, the Spirit of BC Arts Fund, the Van­cou­ver Foun­da­tion, Emily Carr Insti­tute of Art and Design and Gen­er­a­tion Printing.