Library Essays #1 “Elephants are always drawn smaller than life” (2016)


“Imagine a room.

Imagine a space full of shelves.

Imagine a library.

Look around you.

All of the shelves are empty. A roll of tape, a pair of scissors, and a couple of cardboard boxes lay forgotten on the counter. Under it, there are more boxes and a bag of garbage. Someone has clearly swept the floor; otherwise the place is deserted and dark.”

The performance installation and audio play Library essays, part 1 “Elephants are always drawn smaller than life” was performed at the library in Maunula, Helsinki in December 2016 and January 2017. This first part of this project took a place in an old, empty library building, when the library was just moved to a new building.

When people came in, they were advised to use their mobile phones and headphones to listen the audio essay I had written. The length of the essay was 30 minutes. The audience were able to wander in the empty building as they wished. There were also a few installations in the space:

  1. Habent sua fata libelli, in which there were 7 standard lamps, six books, one stone and 3 miniature skeletons.
  2. A Coat that an Angel Forgot, that was a black coat hanging in a coat rack.
  3. The Shelves Without Books, some of the shelves in the space were lighted.

The essay text was a combination of quotes both from fiction and non-fiction concerning library as an institution and acts of writing and reading in the history of humankind. The main narrative was an autobiographical story of me and my father in different situations of life dealing with books.

Later the project was re-constructed, translated and performed in English. This version was also re-titled as THE NOMAD LIBRARY. During 2017 it was performed at Research Pavillion in Venice, IFTR Coference in Sao Paulo and in New Performance Turku Festival in Turku.

English version:

Translated and performed by Hannah Maria Ouramo.

Written and edited by Pilvi Porkola.

Technical consulting by Jusa Porkola.

Listen here:

(app. 25 minutes.)


Finnish version:

Written and performed by Pilvi Porkola.

Sound design by Pauli Riikonen.

Listen here:

Photos by Pilvi Porkola.

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