‘The Really Useful Reading Room’ is an activated installation space consisting of a modular seating system, a shelving system, a display of living plants, a lightbox and an overhead projector displaying a series of mappings. This area of research began with an exploration of how care can be better situated within current institutional frameworks and is a continuation of the work I submitted for AP2 which looked at situating care both behind and within library spaces - elements of that work still have a voice within this new contextualisation. Additional research methodologies have involved practice based outcomes through experimentations with spatiality, materials and forms, traditional book research, and moments of collaborative (un)learning within demarcated spaces with external visitors.
This work was influenced by the recent exhibition and public programme Ways of Learning, curated by Lucy Lopez, together with Grand Union staff Kim McAleese and Sean Elder; and in particular references the learning environment designed and built by Intervention Architecture, Birmingham.
Other predominant areas of influence have come from engaging with exhibitions and symposiums which provide space for practices of care and conversations, such as NTU’s Summer Lodge 2019, Instituting Care by Jade Montserrat at Bluecoat, Women in Aeroplanes at The Showroom, as well as works by Celine Condorelli. Engaging with such exhibitions early in the year gave real validity to my own thoughts on what (un)learning could be as a practice of care. This in turn has helped me understand how this research can sit within a real-world context, as the conversations and dialogues around practices of care and how present learning spaces are used is getting louder and louder, I feel I have found my feet within a rich and ever evolving discussion.
‘The Really Useful Reading Room’ is a title extended from the term ‘really useful knowledge’ a term used in the early 19th century by self-organised workers as a reaction against the instrumentalisation of knowledge in its application to capitalistic production. Workers looked to new ways of education & learning in a time when specific knowledges (applied sciences, engineering, etc) were deemed more ‘useful’ than others (philosophy, politics, history, etc). Making reference to libraries as ‘useful’ sources of knowledge with care situated behind that gathering of knowledge establishes new ways of (un)learning and how one’s own knowledge can change in relation to practices of (un)learning.