Things Found In Books (TFIB)

  • Dates
    2013 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Topics Archive, Daily Life, Documentary, Fine Art
  • Location Dublin, Ireland

The series presented here, looks at lost bookmarks found in library books. These frequently makeshift items may have been hastily stuffed into a book, put there as place markers or for safekeeping but then forgotten when the book is returned.

“Denis O’Shea’s Things Found in Books reveals strange synchronicities between bookmarks inadvertently left in library books. Like chanced-upon ‘readymades’ O’Shea’s images explore the mysterious interplay between private and public spaces.” - Gallery of Photography, Dublin.

 

This series of photographs, begun in 2013 and still ongoing, looks at lost bookmarks found primarily in library books. These frequently makeshift items may have been hastily stuffed into a book, put there as place markers or for safekeeping but then forgotten when the book is returned. Despite the apparent randomness between the books and these various objects, a peculiar visual or textual synchronicity often emerges which provokes musings on chance, books & readers and the interconnectedness of people and things.

 

Books carry the traces of past readers and their lives. Here they have been opened out for viewing. Photographing these spreads in situ, allowing the bookmarks to fall as they may, to the left or right, and not readjusting or repositioning them may be considered as readymades of a kind, I believe. They’re the outcome of a collaborative process between the artist and the unseen, unconscious action of unknown others. Also they possess many of the essences of a quodlibet, some being a visual as opposed to musical mashup, others being a tromp l’oeil blending the bookmark and the page together.

 

The indexical nature of photography is invoked so often and almost a cliché. It is, however, particularly apt, since library books are also indexical insofar as they bear the marks, visible and invisible, of those who have handled them, readers and librarians alike, generally unnoticed by the general public or even library users. The pandemic, however, greatly elevated the awareness of the threat level of contact with objects which have passed through unknown hands. People became accustomed to waiting while tables or goods were sanitised before use. Quarantining infectious books, once standard practice until the mid 20th century, had lapsed, passing into the realm of quaint history.

 

What, if anything, can the project say about the unseen readers? One may feel some connection with a stranger in a park or on a train, reading one’s favourite or a recently-read book. Here, we have one person linking two things. Could one make inferences from them? Does this thing and that book mean something? There are objects, personal photographs, details of events and, more tellingly, notes to self; lists of plans and affirmations or even remonstrations for failings. Perhaps these are little windows allowing glimpses into anonymous lives.

 

Although the non-interference with the bookmark remains the same, the project has evolved from the plain unobtrusive background indicting the working environments by showing different desktops; bookshops and purchased books are also used. The use of details helps to elaborate the minute stories seen through the aforementioned windows.

 

This is a project of layers; the physicality of the bookmarks lying on the page, yet flattened on the plane of the photograph, and the stories to be teased out by the reader.

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #12. 	International Day of Peace bookmark in Deschooling Society (Illich)
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TFIB #12. International Day of Peace bookmark in Deschooling Society (Illich)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #58.	Handwritten note in Psychic Healing. Using the Tools of a Medium to Cure Whatever Ails You (Browne)
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TFIB #58. Handwritten note in Psychic Healing. Using the Tools of a Medium to Cure Whatever Ails You (Browne)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #46.	Spectacle cleaning cloth in Designer Genes (Hannigan)
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TFIB #46. Spectacle cleaning cloth in Designer Genes (Hannigan)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #19.	Flu vaccine flyer in Kerry. Too Much Too Young. My Story of Love, Survival and Celebrity (Katona)
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TFIB #19. Flu vaccine flyer in Kerry. Too Much Too Young. My Story of Love, Survival and Celebrity (Katona)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #45.	Instruction sheet in Ordinary Thunderstorms (Boyd)
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TFIB #45. Instruction sheet in Ordinary Thunderstorms (Boyd)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #6.	Colouring sheet in Perspective as Symbolic Form (Panofsky)
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TFIB #6. Colouring sheet in Perspective as Symbolic Form (Panofsky)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #33.	Two photographs in The Art of Interruption. Realism, Photography and the Everyday (Roberts)
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TFIB #33. Two photographs in The Art of Interruption. Realism, Photography and the Everyday (Roberts)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #27.	Handwritten card in End of Days. Predictions and Prophesies About the End of the World (Browne)
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TFIB #27. Handwritten card in End of Days. Predictions and Prophesies About the End of the World (Browne)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #42.	Plant stem fragment in The Book of Genesis (Crumb)
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TFIB #42. Plant stem fragment in The Book of Genesis (Crumb)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #36.	Newspaper fragment in A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities (McKeown)
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TFIB #36. Newspaper fragment in A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities (McKeown)

© Denis O'Shea - Image from the Things Found In Books (TFIB) photography project
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TFIB #64. In-flight menu in Did You Hear Me Crying. The moving story of 45 years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse (Moore)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #20.	Business card in 50 Women Artists You Should Know (Weidemann, Larass and Klier)
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TFIB #20. Business card in 50 Women Artists You Should Know (Weidemann, Larass and Klier)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #51.	Used tissue in The Mayan Prophesies. Unlocking the secrets of a lost civilization (Gilbert and Cottrell)
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TFIB #51. Used tissue in The Mayan Prophesies. Unlocking the secrets of a lost civilization (Gilbert and Cottrell)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #68.	Handwriting on card in Gone with the Windsors (Graham)
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TFIB #68. Handwriting on card in Gone with the Windsors (Graham)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #63.	Handwritten note in Armageddon in Retrospect (Vonnegut)
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TFIB #63. Handwritten note in Armageddon in Retrospect (Vonnegut)

© Denis O'Shea - Image from the Things Found In Books (TFIB) photography project
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Sample spread of multiple pages from calendar notepad with medical illustrations and advertisements for pharmaceuticals in The Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare (Bucknill) Purchased Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road , London 2021.

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #34.	Pink post-it in All the Bishops’ Men (Mooney) - (Detail)
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TFIB #34. Pink post-it in All the Bishops’ Men (Mooney) - (Detail)

© Denis O'Shea - TFIB #60.	Photograph in The Book Thief (Zusak) - (Detail)
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TFIB #60. Photograph in The Book Thief (Zusak) - (Detail)

© Denis O'Shea - Image from the Things Found In Books (TFIB) photography project
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Library book label with general lending rules, sexist references to gender of librarians, peculiar to the times and Infectious diseases notices, once commonplace then abandoned, which acquired new and prophetic relevance during Covid.

© Denis O'Shea - Image from the Things Found In Books (TFIB) photography project
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Version of dummy book, showing inserts with captions, facsimile photographs with artist statement on reverse and 'archive' style handmade slipcase, 2016.

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