Charlie Macquarie, a librarian, archivist, artist and writer, spoke about his “Library of Approximate Locations” at SNC’s Poetry Center in Prim Library March 8. Macquarie’s project sheds light on the importance of libraries and books in a way that makes people want to keep turning the pages.
Macquarie grew up in Carson City and shares his connection to the region and landscape through his art installations at outdoor locations throughout the West and his accompanying talks, which usually take place in libraries.
His installations are comprised of books that share a historic connection to the land. He presents himself as the librarian that he is, curating a library that is specific to a chosen site. His own book collection always follows him in his grandfather’s old truck.
Macquarie was invited by Sarah Lillegard, fine arts gallery coordinator and Jared Stanley, English instructor and co-director of the Poetry Center, who share a common interest in Nevada history, landscape, and the way writers work together to talk about history.
“We brought Charlie here because he represents both innovative artistic practice, innovative writing practice, and different ways of thinking about books and libraries. He’s also very Nevada focused, and that was really important to us,” Stanley said.
Stanley said that Macquarie has “a novel way of telling stories through language, not just writing, but through presentation.”
In Macquarie’s artist talk at SNC, he shared books from the Foresta Institute for Ocean and Mountain Studies library in Carson City. The books included Aridity and Man, Scenic Guide to Nevada, and Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope.
Macquarie began looking at his library career with a creative lens and saw the opportunity to share his interest in Western landscape and history as well as its relation to contemporary issues like economies of extraction, our common resources and indigenous land rights.
“I’m interested in creative practices generally and how we can use them to think about alternate realities to the ones that we have,” Macquarie said. He explained that libraries give us the opportunity for perceptual expansion, especially in an era of increasing privatization and enclosure of common resources.
As an archivist, Macquarie is naturally inclined toward preserving documents and making them available for people to see and share. He said that many important documents and plans in U.S. history that at a time could have been dismissed as quite radical political or cultural ideas have been forgotten.
“Every time we want to change the world, we have to feel as if we are starting from scratch, but actually that is not true,” he said.
While he admits that some may be “boring and useless,” others may contain “ideas that could come back later and compel us.” He said the act of preserving documents is a way to acknowledge “the physicality of information.”