Bodleian Libraries launches Oxford's Big Book public art installation

20 August 2010

IMG_4912_smallThe Bodleian Libraries usually ask readers not to write in library books, but this week visitors are being encouraged to grab a pen and write inside a large wooden book.

‘The Big Book’ is a public art installation on display in the Bodleian Library’s Clarendon Quadrangle from Friday 20 August to Tuesday 24 August. It will be open for contributions from 10am to 6pm daily.

The sculpture, named ‘Imagine’, was made from wood and canvas pages by Oxford artist Diana Bell and stands 2.2m high. Visitors are invited to write about their imaginations in the book, which will move to Bonn Square later in the year.

The installation was opened on Friday by Richard Ovenden, Associate Director and Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Libraries.

Mike Heaney, Executive Secretary at the Bodleian Libraries, said: ‘When Diana Bell came to us with the idea for the 'Imagine' sculpture we could see immediately that the Bodleian Library would be an ideal setting for it. Diana has worked with our staff to achieve a design which captures the spirit of fine books and bindings, to magnificent effect. We are very pleased to host the sculpture in its first public display and we look forward to discovering the richness of visitors' imaginations as they write their thoughts within it.’

Artist Diana Bell said: ‘The size of the book is symbolic of the immense accumulation of human knowledge. The title ‘Imagine’ is important, because as far as we know humans are the only creatures capable of imagination and it is through our imagination that we can create new solutions to our future survival. On a personal level, as we step into our imagination we enter another world. Therefore the act of stepping into the book becomes part of the meaning.’

Diana Bell has created many public participatory projects including the involvement of 7,900 school children in 2000; an audience participation project at Modern Art Oxford in 2006 and participation projects in a railway station and along a river in France. She was commissioned to create the bronze book sculptures in Bonn Square as a gift from Bonn to Oxford in 2008.

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