I started to develop the idea for a new action art project titled Memory Loop after reading a novel that I picked up in a nearby registered little free library on Christmas Day 2019. Free little libraries are great assets to a community because they promote civic-mindedness among residents, recycle resources and make reading available to the general public. Moreover, their aesthetic appeal beautifies neighborhoods in an imaginative and surprising way.

Memory Loop strives to make these free little libraries more interactive by initiating a conversation among readers of specific books. Normally the relationship between the library user and the book is ‘self-contained’; it’s a private affair that unfolds quietly inside the reader’s home; an experience that is not shared with other readers. My goal is to organically expand the scope of these libraries and turn them into a repository of conversations that are encapsulated inside origami letters that readers write to each other.

After reading a book, I put an origami letter addressed to the next reader inside it. The origami letter is not a conventional book review but a combination of personal thoughts, memories and associations generated by whatever I have read. It is also an invitation to the next reader to read the same book and write an origami letter to the following reader. After a while, the book should hold within its pages multiple origami letters. This idea is loosely based on the practice of sending chain letters and the dynamic of a book club.

I am planning to collect these origami letters at the end of June 2020 and organize a pop-up show to bring the neighbors together and celebrate our passion for reading. For this purpose, it is essential that readers who want to participate re-shelf the books in the free little libraries where they found them.

There are no hard rules that regulate the use of registered little free libraries. Borrowing is based on an honor system. However, the organization littlefreelibrary.org encourages users to replace a taken book with another one. In the case of the Memory Loop action art project it is necessary to return the same book to the same library. The completeness of this work relies on the willingness of strangers to interact with a book in a way that calls for playing with origami and sharing information by following specific instructions.

Currently, the U.S., like many other countries around the world, is going through a very difficult time because of the coronavirus outbreak. The free little libraries’ stewards/owners can close them down because of safety concerns at any time and without warning. I personally think that it’s safe to use them as long as users use common sense.

https://littlefreelibrary.org/best-practices-at-little-free-libraries-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/ 

In order to make the Memory Loop action art project I:

  1. Look for a good book to read in free little libraries located in my neighborhood. If I cannot find anything interesting, I buy one, read and donate it.  

  2. Write a letter to the next reader and fold it into an origami square letter fold.

  3. Write instructions on how to make an origami square letter fold and fold it into an origami heart bookmark.

  4. Put the origami square letter fold and the origami instructions inside the book, and wrap two rubber bands around it to hold everything together.

  5. Re-shelve the book inside the library where I originally found it.

  6. Start all over with a different book.

I am planning to collect the other readers’ origami letters, ideally, by the end of summer 2020 and organize a pop-up exhibition in the neighborhood to celebrate reading and get to know other Albuquerque residents. However, due to the widespread disruptions and concerns caused by the current pandemic, it is hard to know how the coronavirus outbreak will unfold in the following months.

 

For this reason, I also invite readers to participate online and share their thoughts and memories by sending me a digital letter, audio recording or images that I will post to keep the conversation going. The books that I have read since December 2019 are: Silence in October by Jens Christian GrøndahlPortraits Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere by Michael Kimmelman and ¡Saludos! Poemas de Nuevo Mexico/Poems of New Mexico edited by Jeanie C. Williams and Victor di Suvero, Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis and The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.

If you live in southeast Albuquerque or somewhere else and would like to participate in the Memory Loop action art project in person or online contact me at: ebastaivisuals@gmail.com.

 January 6, 2021: Memory Loop Update

 

Unfortunately the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the city and the governor’s orders about social distancing and public events disrupted the Memory Loop project in unprecedented challenging ways. I have been re-evaluating the entire project and decided to put it on hiatus for the time being.

 

I am currently exploring new ideas about the relationship between the city’s ecosystem, its residents and the Rio Grande.