BookCode: Locative Literature at Craigmillar Library

Writer and artist Matt Blackwood tells us about BookCode, a piece of locative literature at Craigmillar Library.

Ok so here’s the deal.
I applied for a grant, partly out of frustration from my longer pieces only getting to second base with publishers, and partly because I needed to pay for a root canal. Who would have guessed that four years later I would be infected with Locative Literature and spruiking City of Literature initiatives in an attempt to make the world a more literary place.

BookCode for Craigmillar Library 05

Although it hasn’t been easy. There’s been plenty of “What’s a QR code?”, and even “Literature only belongs in a book,” and yes, I probably could have penned three more doorstops by now, but I think it’s been worth the pain. I think. My thinking tends to get me into trouble.  A Tuesday thought, some four months ago, said I should take weeks hunting for particular books which could be hand carved, LED’s inserted, an acrylic QR code placed on top, and then link this glowing scannable artwork to a narrated short story set at the place where the piece would be exhibited. Fourteen Tuesday’s and six prototypes later and I had a bespoke functioning BookCode for Craigmillar Library in Edinburgh.

The choice of Craigmillar was partly because they were one of the seven libraries who said the magic phrase “Right here, right now”, and partly because while deep in research of all the potential locations to set the story, I stumbled across a Google Map image that fascinated me. It was taken outside the Craigmillar Library, or what would be the library, as even though the image before and further up the road showed the library in its finished form, there was a single shot of what the site once was; a weedy paddock with dirt mounds for boils, hemmed in by a rusty iron fence. This was the image that conjured the story of two boys playing football; one pretty good, one not so great, one from a cashed up family, while the other could only dream of Luca Rolls Royce ice cream parties.

My hope is to create more bespoke BookCodes in the future and have them presented in places not usually associated with literature; like glass cases at train station platforms, shop fronts on busy streets, or even in illuminated advertising spaces at bus stops. This publishing of literature in public spaces is a powerful way for Cities of Literature to share stories and engage broad audiences. After all, literature is Ventolin for the soul.

Find out more about the project on Matt’s web site or head along to Craigmillar and see it for yourself.


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