Flying Object is a nonprofit art and publishing organization located in an old fire station in Hadley, Massachusetts. This Flying Object interview series will serve to document some of the writers, artists and performers that pass through—as well as activity in our own community.
One person’s rat brain is another’s treasure. At the Reanimation Library’s temporary branch at Flying Object, I flip through glossy x-rays of rat brains, charts of electrocardiogram wavelengths, of bird houses, of sea canyons. In the right hands, an image is never antiquated, though the mode of appreciation changes. I don’t pick up Differential Diagnosis of the Electrocardiogram to learn. The author’s original intent has come and gone. Instead, I watch a thought morph across time, suspended between the false poles of aesthetics and information, in a fluid of anthropological disconnect.
Some could view Andrew Beccone’s Reanimation Library as a collection of mid-20th century failure, post-war America slipping on a banana peel for the 21st century’s amusement, utopian ambition reduced to point-and-laugh novelty. In their time, these books mounted earnest attempts to solve the problems of the modern world: to catalog and understand experience from the clouds to the bedroom to the sea floor, to teach us who we are. And they failed, or were dismissed as quackery, or disproved. Science writes over itself.
So what to do with this discarded material? Beccone’s collection emerges from this dust, this atomic fallout. Over the course of 12 years, he has assembled an island of misfit toys, books from these post-war years to be appreciated for their images, their ambitious titles. He does not base selection on assigning cultural worth, some arbitrary canon based on “importance” or “relevance.” His library champions a contrary definition of timelessness.
And from the collection’s middle finger to “relevance” comes its charm and vitality. Edward Tufte, hero to Beccone and pioneer of data visualization, says, “The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” Beccone collects these flat attempts, an undertaking arguably as preposterous as the utopian dreams of modernism. His books are as valiant as they are absurd, profound as they are crude, foolish and fascinating. —Patrick Gaughan
Patrick Gaughan: You say you chose the books mostly for their visual content: photographs, illustrations, diagrams. From my brief experience, the collection seems to lean towards the sciences, instructional material, outmoded theory. What genres do you find yourself including in the Library?