A queer library is as much a matter of desire as it is of paper, as much a matter of fantasy as it is of shelving. To Whom It May Concern, an installation at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archive by Catherine Lord, borrows its title from the dedication of John Cage’s book Silence, published in 1961. To Whom It May Concern explores a network of generosity. Photographs of several hundred book dedications, considerably enlarged, will encircle the mezzanine, above the closed stacks of the library from which they were culled. Some are made to the famous, others to the unknown. Some are made to parents, others to hopes, to tricks and to initials.
Just as saying the words, “I do thee wed,” causes a marriage to come into being, putting into print, inside a book, the words, “I make you a gift of the words I have written,” causes that statement to be true. It tenders to another, in advance, the very object that the reader holds in her hands. It makes the gift upon the material that makes writing, and the gift itself, possible. Book dedications are gifts of labor and love. To dedicate a book is to hide the private in plain view, to splay intimacy upon a sheet of paper for any and all to see. This status, somewhere between public and private, is perfectly suited to the creation and transmission of “queer” culture.” Coded, sly, witty, and polemical, these gifts turn queer into a verb. They queer “culture.”
No database indexes the dedications in the library of ONE Archives. The dedications used in To Whom It May Concern were found by a manual search. The books that contain the dedications have been returned to their shelves without recording bibliographic details. Information about authors, book titles and dates can be retrieved only by chance, or by another laborious search.
For more information on To Whom It May Concern, please visit cruisingthearchive.org/towhomitmayconcern.
In addition to this installation, Catherine Lord is also a contributor to the exhibition catalogue for Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, ONE Archives’ Pacific Standard Time exhibition. Cruising the Archive will be on view simultaneously with To Whom It May Concern at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.
For more information on Cruising the Archive, please visit cruisingthearchive.org.
To Whom It May Concern is presented by University of Southern California Libraries.