Hanna Neshmonina’s untitled photographic installation, which I have termed Colour by Call Number, was initially inspired by and a random comment I made about how users often remember books by colour rather than by author, title, content. For librarians, we may smile at such a basic means of retrieving information, but, as we can all probably attest; it is a well used means of mnemonically locating resources in our libraries. Although cataloguers would shudder at the complexities of including this information in our MARC cataloguing records, Neshmonina seems to playfully remind us of our obligation to assist visual learners to negotiate the complexities of accessing text-based information.
On a deeper level, it seems as if Neshmonina directly confronts our strict adherence to traditional classification systems. The presence of a library cart, a “free space” where users anarchically place books removed from the confines of call number order, seems to celebrate in the ephemeral collections that are produced in such a haphazard manner. The artist revels in the profusion of colours and random patterns created in this very open space that changes so randomly according to who is using our collection. Why, Neshmonina seems to query, can’t we have a say in how the collection is organized? With the advent of social cataloguing, tagging and technologies such as “mash up,” Neshmonina’s critique carries even greater impact. Such an interpretation seems reinforced by its direct reference to artist Piet Mondrian, whose paintings featured geometric blocks of pure colour, delineated by grids. Mondrian strove to replicate “empirical scientific formulae” to achieve “the total realization of ‘beauty’”. Designers such as Gerrit Rietvelt, brought his esoteric aesthics into to realm of industrial and interior design. Yet, this grid-based conceptualization of aesthetics seem so removed from human experience. Charmion Wiegand, writing in “The Meaning of Mondrian,” an obiturary designed to celebrate the artist’s life, still concedes that his artworks were “Devoid of any biological, organic or literary connotations.” Is Neshmonina levelling a similar critique onto our organizational structures?
Jones,Yvonne. "Modrian, Piet." Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press.
Wiegand, Charmion. “The Meaning of Mondrian.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2.8 (Autumn 1943): 62-70.