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Morgan, SMG 2000, 'Unpacking my library : stories of how we understood the world', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright SMG Morgan 2000


Unpacking my Library is the title for the body of artistic work discussed in this documentation. The work has been produced over a four-year period and consists of four interrelated sets of artist's books and framed wall images that make up my library.

My aim was to create a body of work that traced the development and creation of visual objects and, by so doing map the development of a personal cultural identity. I was interested in exploring what I perceived as a correspondence between the processes developed in the studio to articulate ideas visually, and the way in which identity develops. The work was based on the principle that both the studio processes and the development of cultural identity involved instances of negotiation between self and site. It was my intention that the project would result in a visual documentation of how the development and creation of visual objects provided insights into those moments in which the process invents or reinvents the subject.

The installation of this work has been formulated around the idea of framing a moment in the performance of unpacking the library, the library being a series of books which frame the subject. What is captured in this frame is a person reviewing her memories of some of the terms and phrases used to formulate a sense of who she was in the world. These memories relate to the years between 1955 and 1972.

The work has been constructed around a series of stories that are based on these memories. In each of the four stages of the project these stories are reworked in slightly different media. This results in a sequential development of the form and content which maps the performance of cultural inculcation within the specific context of being a British expatriate. There is an undeniable sense of repetition in the work that reflects my memories of the way in which the process of reproducing cultural identity was performed.

The form of the project has been designed around the idea of constructing a library of artist's books. This aspect of the work's structure was to some extent triggered by Walter Benjamin's essay Unpacking my Library from which I have borrowed the working title for the project.

The project design was formulated around the idea of three interrelated sets of work; this eventually became three sets of artist's books plus a series of framed wall images and a CD version of the complete library. Each set or version represents a stage in the development of the conceptual context of the work and the image construction.

Stage one of the project was modelled loosely on an ethnographic expedition. At this point my main concern was to collect the raw data from which the subsequent work could be developed. I was also engaged at this point in working through and trialing various formal considerations in terms of how the individual images would be collated, and how I might approach the installation as a whole.

Stage two of the project was a period in which I edited the imagery and developed the conceptual headings from which to work. This was an editing process in which the imagery was developed into more synthesised and sophisticated compositions.

In stage three and four of the project I trialed and developed two completely new versions of the work. At this stage I was aware of working between the images in terms of the conceptual ideas I was working with. The image construction and compositions were becoming more complex as I moved from the hand-made through to the digital and back to the hand-made collage.

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