V E R M O N T S Q U A R E B R A N C H L I B R A R Y, Los Angeles, California, 1993-1996
Commissioner: City of Los Angeles, Cultural Affairs Department
Award: Design Excellence Award for Architecture and Public Art, 1997
glass, steel, magnifying glass, wood, library card catalogue
A glass topped table was placed in the main space of the library as a reference desk next to the library check out counter. Sandblasted text on glass listed titles of 141 books that have been banned, censored, and challenged at American public libraries and schools between 1895 and 1994.
A magnifying glass with a fig leaf sandblasted on its surface was placed at the center of the table.The fig leaf is derived from the fact that the leaf has long been a symbol for “concealed” knowledge: Adam and Eve each wore a fig leaf apron to cover their nakedness in what may be western history’s first act of censorship. Nagasawa researched the censored and challenged books from multi genre; from biographical works, Black literature, children’s literature, gay and lesbian literature, classical novels, occult books, plays, poetry, political books, reference books, religious books, to sex education books and beyond.
The circulation desk displayed an old-fashioned library card catalogue drawer. It contained card for each of the 141 censored books titles in alphabetic order, indicating the title, author, publication date, objector, objection, location, and the date of censorshipBy revealing the playful humor and serious contemplation in the space of research and imagination, the artwork reminds the people that libraries have been locations of cultural contestation throughout American history—places of censorship and exclusion, as well as opportunity and discovery. The project received Design Excellence Award in Architecture and Public Art from the Board of Cultural Affairs