Doubly Transmuted


In Slate, Lisa Davis describes an interesting art show:

For nearly a year, a vandal mutilated more than 600 books on gay and lesbian themes at the San Francisco Public Library. Without explanation, he carved up covers and pages and left small typewritten slips of paper advertising a Bible radio station tucked inside the damaged works….With help from artists around the country, the San Francisco Public Library transformed the crime into an art show titled "Reversing Vandalism," which features more than 200 works of various mediums and is on view in three galleries at the library through May 2.

Her essay accompanies a slideshow drawn from the art. It's very impressive.

[Via Bryan Alexander.]

NEXT: Economist, Philosopher, World Leader and Scientific Thinker: My Kinda Candidate!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s beautiful.

  2. Wow, that’s inspiring. They’ve turned their victimization into triumph!

    Of course, there’s probably a very good chance that the perp was a “religious nut,” strong emphasis on the “nut” part. On one visit to the Central Library in L.A., they told me about someone who was doing something similar, only with dictionaries or something. They also ejected a guy because he smelled really bad. Many of the visitors to the Central Library are homeless, of which a good number are probably former mental patients.

    I’m sure one of the swingin’, sexy, Nation-reading librarians there could tell you many exciting stories about their wacky patrons!

  3. I would say the original defacement was the true art, and much more pertinent than the undoubtedly sanctimonious display from the “artists” after the fact.

  4. Let’s see how you like it when YOU get kicked out of the library, buttmunch.

  5. I was asked to leave the Echo Park branch of the LAPL several years ago. I had asked their computer guy to let me into their password-protected computer, and the Young Adult librarian told me it would probably be best if I left.

    They made an enemy that day.

  6. Is there anything really unlibertarian about what the vandal did?

    After all, he’s forced to pay for the library, so why shouldn’t he be allowed to consume his share as he sees fit?

  7. Sometimes I think, “Maybe I should be a Libertarian. I could be a rebel, a fringe thinker! I could start arguments with Reeps AND Dems!” But then I see book vandalism IS a libertarian value, “If I don’t want you to read it, I have the right to deface this book!” and I realize, um, no. I guess censorship is okay as long as it’s done by individuals and not the state. Time to send a check to, I see.

  8. The question is, Heather, should a person be forced to pay for a book that is contrary to his own beliefs?

    The guy didn’t deface books in someone else’s house, or at Barnes & Noble. He did it to books he was forced to pay for through taxes. Who’s to say that he’s not within his rights to deface a book he was forced to pay for? Why should anyone else’s ideas about what should be done with the books be any more legitimate than his?

    This is the problem whenever you force people to pay for things, and create so-called “public property.”

  9. With that kind of attitude, I’m going to go steal me a tank from my local army base. I mean, I paid for it – why shouldn’t I get to joyride it?

  10. In other news, I’ve got a few bald eagles for sale. I shot their asses when I was hangin’ out in Yellowstone yesterday.

  11. Laugh all you want, but as long as government controls these resources, we won’t know what their highest and best use is.

  12. I seem to remember seeing stuff like that in high school art class.

  13. “The question is, Heather, should a person be forced to pay for a book that is contrary to his own beliefs?”

    jesus, that’s fucking retarded.

    how much we talking about here? a few dollars?

    if he wanted to protest this, he should have gone on a tax strike, which wouldn’t have interefered with anyone else’s ability to use their joint property (if you’re going to think of books that way, then it’s every taxpayer’s property…). then again, that would have gotten his ass arrested, and dead books tell no tales. 🙂

  14. Even if he could deface a book because he paid for it, he should really only be able to deface the .000000000000001% of each book his tax dollars paid for.

  15. Was he absolutely certain these books were not voluntarily donated to the library by individuals? I doubt it.

    A better choice for protest would be to exploit the legitimate flaws in the library’s system — if you can make five free Xerox copies per visit, say, make 25 visits to the library per day. Or if the library offers a “fine-free month” for overdue books in April, for instance, check out the maximum number of books you can in May and return them the next April.

    Or, how about this — DONATE books that represent YOUR viewpoint to the library to act as a counterbalance to the views you disagree with.

  16. Did no one notice that the vandal was charged with a hate crime?

    I’ve yet to find a source indicating he physically threatened a single individual.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.