Libraries Participate in Democracy Exhibit

Visit the Western Illinois University Art Gallery before September 23 to participate in Joel Seahs interactive artwork based on the campus theme Now is the TimeCivic Engagement.

Photo of a person with a clinched fist over their heart The WIU Libraries and the Macomb Public Library are active participants in the development of Seahs interactive Reclaimed exhibit, which is presented in conjunction and in support of the Universitys participation in the American Democracy Project.

On each section of the image wall, there will be a note card with a reference number for a book at the Malpass Library on campus or the Macomb Public Library. Viewers will be asked to take a note card, directing them to one of a variety of books; reclaim an image which will placed in an envelope in the book; then place the image in its corresponding position on the wall in the gallery. All images must be found for the work to be completed.

The process of creating the piece is an act of creating a larger image based on smaller parts, analogous to the process of voting and democracy, noted John Graham, Art Gallery curator. The active and collective involvement, or non-involvement, will determine how the image looks. For the entire image to appear, all the image fragments must be found and returned to the Gallery.

Chuck Malone, Chair of WIU Libraries, expressed his delight with the project. "A democracy must have informed citizens in order to work. Libraries have always had a tradition of being a place where one can go to find information about any number of topics and ideas. The variety of topics and ideas contained in our books is also representative of the variety of ideas and points of view that make up a democracy."

While the Reclaimed series relies on personal experience to construct private mappings and systems, The American Democracy Project advocates the reclamation and construction of community, government and nation through active participation and involvement, Seah said. In the interactive artwork, the totality of the culled images becomes a metaphor for the dissimilar and unique forms of expression in a healthy democracy, he continued. The nature of the artwork is contingent upon a group effort and a collective voice.

Seah, a Singaporean who is currently a Masters of Fine Arts degree candidate at Syracuse University, said of his Reclaimed series: The idea of reclamation as it pertains to a national and personal identity is the impetus for this series of works. The subject of reclamation alludes to the ongoing dialogue between geography and the urban condition and makes specific references to the recovery of physical, spiritual, political and social territories.