Peter Russell
Library

Library is a response to the transformation of the Alloa Tower in the time of John Erskine, Sixth Earl of Mar, from defensible site to gracious centrepiece for both the town of Alloa and the formal gardens he devised. It symbolises the civilising effects of the Earlís value of learning and culture. He established a library in the sun-filled space of the family retreat in the Solar and was responsible, too, for beneficial developments in and around Alloa. These included imaginative initiatives in coalmining, industry, planning and landscaping, with environmental concern that anticipated the ideas of Patrick Geddes. The Earlís political involvements, including service as Secretary of State before disappointment in the state of the Union led to espousal of the Jacobite cause, are evidence of social and national concern relevant to Scotlandís new devolved status.

Despite a rich mythology of libraries, from Alexandria to Umberto Eco, by way of Borges, reference to the Earlís library is necessarily oblique, due to the lack of evidence beyond the herringbone shelf design of the original, but the effect of the Grand Tour to Rome, with those associations of art, architecture, humanism and landscape, is likely.

My emphasis is therefore on the spirit of the library, its breadth and generality, rather than on historical accuracy. To embrace this more fully, I have decided to collaborate with a number of artists / friends interested in the project, including Elaine Allison, Marshall Anderson, Eiko Fan, Natalie Friedinger, Kenny Munro, Emma Scott- Smith and members of Hanging Together. I am grateful for their kind support.

Books may be judged by their covers, which are the main visual presentation for most of the collaborating artists. Visual aspects of the Tower, its fabric and location can be seen among those with non-specific form; references to Patrick Geddes; and Scottish wilderness. Some books may be opened, and thus present text as a significant element. A large variety of materials and mixed-media techniques expresses the range of ideas inspired by books in this historic context.

Finally, whatever the limitations of the concept in library, I must admit my technical limitations in the construction of the shelving. The roughness and insecurity of the shelving is indicative of my rudimentary carpentry skills and may suggest the fragility of learning in a dynamic society in which old ways are often lost.