Artists in the KB - national library (report 2021)

In 2021 Stroom, in partnership with the KB, the national library of the Netherlands, published an open call for artists from The Hague to apply for a pilot residency in the KB Atelier in collaboration with the Special Collections. From the 43 submissions, the KB selected three proposals that explore the representation of this collection in different ways.  >> read more about the call and the selection process.

gerlach en koop
Residency November-December 2021
The collective gerlach en koop started their residency on 22 November 2021, as the third in the experimental triptych of Artists-in-Residencies at the KB, national library of the Netherlands. gerlach en koop were given their own office in the Document Processing Department, where publications arrive and are described in the catalog. From there, they set out to talk to as many KB staff members as possible; about unlocking the collection, making and keeping it accessible, about findability, preservation, storage and requests. They did not want to commit themselves to a specific topic in advance. In response to the open call they wrote, "If we want this residency to result in a work, and that is certainly our plan, then it is important - however difficult it will be - to let a direction emerge by itself rather than to choose one beforehand. Ideally, we would like to work with material that is, as it were, waiting for us. Material whose existence we could not have suspected." gerlach en koop did not immediately focus on the book collections themselves, but first on the process or method by which the physical objects can be retrieved. The work period of gerlach en koop was interrupted by the Covid lock down and is still being finalized. After that, the pilot with the three residencies will be evaluated with the KB national library and Stroom Den Haag and together they will decide if and how they will proceed.

The first work gerlach en koop created as a result of this residency is double-sided poster in offset, in an edition of 100 copies. The price is is 50,- excl. postage.
Information and to order via: post [at]
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Koninklijke Bibliotheek, kamer B3.606, Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5, Den Haag
gerlach en koop
2021, double-sided poster, 70 × 100 cm, offset, edition 100

The poster displays two of the thousands of bookends from the library depot, full size, one on the front, one on the back. If the beginning of the collection is in front of you, the end is out of sight. If the end is in front of you, you can't see the beginning. There is no front. There is no back. The collection is empty when you look through it.

Risk Hazekamp
Residency October-November 2021
"Can the 'more-than-human' speak?" This was Risk Hazekamp's main question. Risk wondered what voices are represented in the library's repositories and who they are speaking to. It involved a literal search for organic material in the depots of the library and a figurative form of finding. What does this organic material tell us and what can we learn from it. This search by Risk is not easy, because the search for a more-than-human presence is unusual for a library and also somewhat uncomfortable and upsetting. "Pests" are controlled and, in the case of donations, books are first quarantined to be kept clean in the repositories. Any dried leaves, feathers or flowers that have gotten into books through conscious or unconscious human behaviour, are sometimes kept "in context" inside the books (if they do not cause any damage), but they are certainly not always recorded. For the KB, working with Risk yielded an exciting search, and a surprisingly different view of the more-than-human presence. But it also offered the library a completely different perspective and reflection on how to search inside a collection.

Anne Geene
Residency October 2021
Anne Geene used an algorithm (written especially for her) to select a publication from the over 7 million titles available. It turned out to be Bells and Chimes in Ancient China, a 172-page publication with every conceivable piece of information on the subject, from which Geene plucked a myriad of questions: about numbers, weight, colors, calculations, and scores of questions about "metadata" questions, ultimately getting closer to the question: why does a book end up in the collection?