Around the book

Alexander Reichstein, installation from waste books
Naftali Rakuzin, paintings

art objects
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[rus] Anna Akhmatova museum, St.Petersburg. 18.3 - 17.4.2016

The exhibition at the Anna Akhmatova Museum consists of two parts: paintings by Naftali Rakuzin and my installation of discarded books. Rakuzin ( produces oil paintings of books—books stacked on shelves and lying on desks, books open and closed. Rakuzin and I had not met before the show. Curator Marina Magidovich brought two such different members of the “people of the book” together.

My installation of books is a sequel and amalgam of two previous projects, Void, which I showed long ago ( and The Big Book Labyrinth (

The labyrinth takes up most of the room. It has been fashioned from books discarded by their former owners as well as donated publishers’ remainders. Architecturally, the labyrinth resembles a ziggurat or pyramid. The outcome is something like a temple to the worship of books as objects printed on paper, for it is such books that are yielding a number of their functions to electronic information devices right before our eyes. The fall in demand for books has thus been reflected in people’s willingness to discard titles they so recently coveted. The labyrinth has no dead end or forks. Its path is intricate, leading viewers first to the middle of the construction and then to the exit.

The other book-based artifacts in the show (towers, spirals, arches, trees, little houses, etc.) show the rich possibilities offered by the book as a building material. Whatever we produce from books, the viewer instantly perceives the artifacts as repositories of the meanings and symbols bound up with the very nature of books. Thus, a spiral tower is transformed into a stairway to knowledge; an arch, into a cathedral portal; a house, into a temple of science; and a book spiral, into a whirlpool sucking the reader into its vortex. Meanwhile, a book tree reminds us of the raw material from which the paper used in making books is ordinarily manufactured.

The books were not harmed in any way during construction of the maze. On the last day of the show, the labyrinth will be dismantled, and visitors will be able to take whatever books they like completely free of charge. The rest of the book objects will be packed up and might be exhibited somewhere else. However, the labyrinth can always be recreated by adapting it to the shape and size of the available space, since I have mastered the technique of building things from discarded books.

Project Team
Curator: Marina Maguidovitch
Museum Staff: Zhanna Televitskaya, Olga Morozova
Agency Art Ru Representative: Yulia Annenkova
Installers: Sergei Sorokin, Svetlana Kalinovskaya,
Sergei and Lolita Nikolayev-Kalinovsky
Shipping Agent: Andrei Gerasimovich
Anna Akhmatova Museum Volunteer Center
Students from the Herzen Pedagogical State University (Petersburg)

“Books Should Live” project, On Liteiny Bookstore,
Ivan Limbakh Publishers, journalist Dmitry Novik,
Pushkin District Central Library System,
and everyone who simply brought books to the museum
helped us assemble the books used in the show. Thank you!

Photos: Alexander Reichstein, Andrei Rybachek