Sunday, March 12, 2006

Yucef Merhi's Artboom/Poeticdialogues 2.0 + Chicago Bookstore Closing

It's the end of the quarter, so my available time for posting has diminished to almost zero. But I don't want to let a week pass without putting a few things up, so here's something I came across recently, Yucef Merhi's Artboom, which has been around since 1999 and which Merhi periodically updates. The relational, networked aspect of the project really interests me. (Some of the photos, however, are no longer appearing.)


From the site:

the artboom is a compilation of images of the art network that yucef merhi has been doing since he started to exhibit in galleries and museums.

this project embodies a genealogical tree where every person has been classified by its profession and connected depending on how was introduced to merhi.

each arrow and vertical line (-> , <-, ^, | ) show a new generation of connections that are linked to the previous image. one person can have multiple connections. the plus sign ( + ) or the lack of symbols mean vertical and horizontal additions. all these pictures have been taken with a wristwatch-camera prototype since 1999 until the present. as an on-going project, the artboom is updated almost every day. another project related to the artboom is called poetic dialogues and it can be experienced at 2.0.

Spencer TunickChad EbonCecilia VicuñaShiva BurgosNoah Wardrip-Fruin
Artists from L-R: Spencer Tunick; Chad Ebon; Cecilia Vicuña (also a poet); Shiva Burgos; Noah Wardrip-Fruin (important hypertext scholar as well)

Merhi's site has a lot more information on his work, links to other projects (including the first version of poeticdialogues) and his books.


Left of Center BooksIt's hardly a surprise when one of the increasingly rare independent, non-used bookstore shuts down these days, but it's still disheartening. So I want to mourn Left of Center Bookstore (in the cellphone photo at left), a great little gathering place on Granville Avenue in the rapidly gentrifying Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, just a few blocks from the main campus of Loyola University of Chicago's Lake Michigan campus.

Left of Center had one of the freshest selections of political and theoretical books, and in particular, of left-leaning texts of any bookstore in the immediate area. For a bookstore of its size, it also carried a good stock of works in art history, philosophy, and critical studies. One other area that it excelled in, compared to some of the nearby chains, was obscure graphic novels and local self-published graphic texts.

Now it's gone.

Stopping by today I experienced a feeling similar to what I'd felt when I learned about the imminent closing several years ago (actually six or so years ago!--where does the time go?) of my one of my three favorite small bookstores in New York, Posman's, which sat for years on University Place right across from Washington Square Mews, amid NYU's buildings, and which carried a wide range of books that Barnes & Noble and other chains would not stock without begging and cajoling. It's true that all books are available online, but the pleasure of browsing the shelves without a plan, and the serendipity of coming across a text or two that I hadn't even heard of before simply can't be replicated by combing through's or's search engines. Posman's also hosted readings and was the spot where I first got to see Sapphire, Elaine Equi, David Shapiro, and quite a few other authors read.

When I asked if there was a possibility of the store reopening, Left of Center's owner said that she was so far in debt she would have to take time out just to get herself financially back into shape. She was sending back quite a few books, including two tantalizing stacks of Dalkey Archive Press novels, which she didn't want to see since she'd be able to get some money for them. A few boxes of novels and books of poetry were for sale, at 5 for $20, so I picked up a handful that I didn't already have: a 2004 collection of recently deceased Lorenzo Thomas's poetry, and novels by Oonya Kempadoo, Edmundo Desnoes, Mia Couto, and fellow St. Louisan Dan Stolar.

When I read each, I'll be thinking of this store--so long, Left of Center Bookstore....

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