Spectral archive

For the next several months I’ll be focused on Weymouths, a 12-book project I’ve been commissioned to produce for the 2012 b-side arts festival in the UK. The work will be installed during the summer Olympics in Weymouth, a seaside town in Dorset, England, where the official sailing competitions will take place.

From the project proposal—

Weymouths explores memory, geography and cultural identity through site-specific books that draw upon the linked histories of Weymouth, Dorset (UK) and Weymouth, Massachusetts (USA). Created for the 2012 b-side Multimedia Arts Festival and installed on-site at festival locations, 12 publications will be released to visitors during the 13-day festival. Among the goals for Weymouths is to create moments for rich, page-by-page engagement in the environment for the ambulatory visitor—the printed book as a participatory art project.

The 12 volumes will be produced and presented as reliquaries of collective memory—bound containers holding text, color and imagery. Historical records, lists, archival imagery, on-site photography, tweets, interviews, maps, street names, Google Street View, Wikipedia and other raw source material will be assembled into open, thought-provoking narratives—real and imagined.

Beginning with the 104 citizens of Weymouth, Dorset (UK) who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1635 to found Weymouth, Massachusetts (USA), the 12 books will be a celebration of temporal connections, disconnects and other trans-geographic structures that continue to hover between the twin towns, as well as a chance to “re-see” cultural identity in real-time.

Each volume will be produced using a print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine (EBM). Limited editions of 20 (a total of 240 books) will be installed at various festival locations. Each day during the festival a new volume will be revealed and installed, beginning with Vol. #1 on July 30 and ending with Vol. #12 on August 10, 2012. The books will be free to anyone exploring Weymouth during the 13-day period; they will slowly disappear from the installation sites as they are discovered and enjoyed by their new owners. Weymouths will encourage a slow, alternative presentation of time and space for visitors as they explore.

Weymouths is part of an exploration that began with Venetian Suite and continued last year with Memory Palace and 273 Relics for John Cage. Each draws together ideas about memory, place and the image within the contained book form.

Someone recently described Memory Palace as a spectral archive, which I define as traces and histories, memories of or like a ghost, collected and contained. This articulation of my book works appeals to me. The spectral archive favors the forgotten and conjures a shapeless narrative, more liquid than linear. A book of associations, loaded with suggestion and unspecified meaning; a dream tool. A rumination machine. The spectral archive is crafted with specificity, but it’s experienced on the user’s own terms, creatively and without restriction.

I want to produce this work publicly, like I did in Rome. As I generate stuff, even fragments of ideas, I’ll post them here.


  1. Thinking about your effort and our software and my interest in archaeology, I could see an outline of each town’s original settlement, and then some type of progression (say every 20/50 years) where you layer the expansion/contraction of these settlements over time to the present day.
    Much success to you on this highly-imaginative project for the 21st century.

  2. If the work is for the Olympics, then I suggest you forget history and politics.

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