When Bay Area artist Nicole Lavelle first learned about the Prelinger Library -- a collection of ephemera, periodicals, maps and books run by founders Megan and Rick Prelinger -- she thought, “I’ve got to go.”
Located on the second floor of a building in SOMA, the Prelinger Library specializes in material “not commonly found” in other public libraries. The collection is image-heavy, including zines, concert posters, artists’ books and children’s literature. Appropriation and re-use is welcomed and encouraged -- the library even allows visitors to scan, copy and photograph items on site, free of charge.
“I went, and I just never stopped going,” says Lavelle.
Other visitors had similar bonding experiences with the cozy, organically arranged collection, the Prelingers’ warm greetings, and offers of complimentary tea. When the popularity of the library grew and their own schedules became stretched thin, the Prelingers looked for ways to expand the library’s hours.
They proposed a challenge to Lavelle: increase public access to the library in a way that benefitted her own artistic practice. Lavelle’s own work often included presentations (think narrated and poetically meandering image-based PowerPoints), and she latched onto the idea of asking others to create visual lectures on the broad subject of “place,” using images found within the library.
The first Place Talks, attended by roughly 60 people, took place on Sept. 17 with presentations by the Prelinger Library’s resident librarian Charlie Macquarie and artist Renée Rhodes. This Thursday, Oct. 22, architect Hallie Chen discusses the “grid logic” of San Francisco's urban planning, and artist Joshua Stulen considers his changing view of Candlestick Park. And on Nov. 19, artist Bennett Williamson and archivist Kate Dundon take the subject matter further afield to cover internet sabotage in the South Bay and the peculiar archives of the Lick Observatory, respectively.