Don’t worry, public libraries aren’t closing down: they’re just migrating to cyber-space. If, however, you don’t know where cyber-space is you are doomed - for neither do they. I tried to borrow an ebook from the City Library the other day and found out that it’s not quite as slick a process as the Kindle/Amazon model. For a start they only have one (1) copy available to borrow - just like printed books. Perhaps it was my incomprehension of this fact that confused my attempt to navigate the website and resulted in a failed download.
The next day I walked to the remains of the City Library to seek assistance and found that the ladies there were willing but unable to help. None of the three I spoke to knew how to download ebooks from the collection in their charge. They did try to phone Janet, their expert on the subject, who works somewhere in cyber-space three days a week, but she finishes early on Thursdays and I had missed her. They promised Janet would email me (tech-wizz that she is) and sort it out. Before I left one of them confided to me that the library service is now staffed with “generic workers” - the definition of which appears to be “people who are paid to know nothing about the job”.
But out in the low-tech world nice things still happen. Last week a rare concatenation of events - a rain-free, sunny day and a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield - reminded me of how joyful it can be to experience art. The visit included the services of a specialist (non-generic) curator who took us through a tour of the recently installed Joan Miró exhibition - an excellent, if lazy, way to acquire the background information which usefully contextualises abstract art. Something that occurred to me was that Miró, whether he intended to or not, developed a very successful brand. His pieces became easily recognisable and, good branding being good business, his subsequent commercial success brought him a big, modern studio and the resources to make ever-larger sculptures.
After the YSP we visited The Hepworth Gallery at Wakefield where we enjoyed another learned tour in the charge of an expert curator. I began to be aware that Barbara Hepworth's sculptures have something in common with those of Miró - distinctive branding. Moreover, they too got bigger as she became richer. But our curator was particularly pleased to point out two small, early pieces positioned side by side. One - the famous, iconic Pelagos which she described as “the cover shot model” for catalogues - and another, less familiar work recently discovered in the headmistress’ study at Wakefield Girls’ High School. It was called Quiet Form which, with a little imaginative punctuation, might aptly have been re-named Quiet, form!
Back at home, art a distant, fond memory, my frustrations with technology resumed. While waiting for my PC to install 58 unrequested updates (it having stuck for three hours on number 17) I filled my time with some ironical reading on the subject of technological advances. An article which caught my attention concerned three-dimensional printing which, for the uninitiated, is the conversion of computer-generated 3D visualisations into solid forms via ‘printers’ which exude tiny granules of matter in very thin layers to build up solid forms. I was just musing that, if I were a sculptor, I might be seduced by this labour-saving technology when my phone pinged and I opened an email from Janet at the library. It had no content.
I look forward optimistically to the day when those of us with 3D printers will be able to download sculptures from cyber-space libraries.