A New Reader: A Library Fit for the Internet Age

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A New Reader: A Library Fit for the Internet Age

Lead imageThe Goodbye Look from Hipgnosis, 1982From the library of Hassan Rahim. Scan by new reader

New readerdigital library launched by Or Rosenbloom and Emvy Nguyen in 2019 is a proposal for how libraries can function better now. New Reader does exactly what its name suggests: on a free, open web page, it provides a new way to consume; a new way of distribution. The digital home Rosenblum built with Nguyen organizes information around individuals. The format is simple: long interviews with creators form the core of the online library. Each interview covers the individual’s creative practice, their sources of inspiration, their methods of creation and how they disseminate images or information. These interviews – with the likes of AnOther columnist Elise By Olsen, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Marine Serre and Sage Elsesser – are extremely detailed glimpses into the minds of complex people. “We’re thinking about how a library or a research and education medium can match the cultural fidelity of a museum or a music video,” says Rosenbloom.

Rosenbloom comes with experience as a former designer at an avant-garde art and fashion magazine dreamer, where he worked after completing his studies at Parsons. He is the natural author of such a complex undertaking, with a practice that is as rigorous as it is flexible. At Visionary, each new issue of the magazine took on an extremely different format from the previous one; editions were presented as a deck of cards, a Bible with custom artwork, a denim garment (made with Levi’s) and a collaboration with Tiffany which redirected 4000 vintage novels. Suffice to say, Rosenbloom understands how to think way outside the box. “When you’re making something from scratch, you start thinking about every other person who’s done something interesting in this world and what they were thinking,” says Rosenbloom. “IN Visionary we worked with the most legendary minds. Watching them synthesize their knowledge base into a unique object inspired me to develop a tool that could help clarify and archive their creative journeys.”

In a sense, New Reader is a uniquely American project. “When you look at the contributors—a young politician, a professional skateboarder, a Harvard professor, a bottle owner—the only place where all these people can physically exist is a place like New York,” says Rosenbloom, “and that’s innately American. Each subject was chosen for the uniqueness of their work, after which the interviews were conducted and edited independently by Rosenbloom over a period of five months to a year. While not deliberately reactive, New Reader offers a value system in stark contrast to how much of the visual, corporate and cultural world operates: here, time is the ultimate luxury and genuine care is imperative. “Interviews are a collaborative research process in which subjects explore their library and discuss which stories, techniques, and references are important to who they are and what they do,” says Rosenbloom. “Each reference is a chromosome in each person’s creative and intellectual DNA. It’s as much an opportunity for the subjects to learn about themselves as it is for the audience.”

The interviews themselves are varied in content, but what connects them is the emphasis on books as an important reference point. In the course of the interviews, primary materials on the subject are collected. For a fashion designer marine greenhousereferences extend from Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1984) to Ilian Velikov’s A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Great Britain and Europe (2016). Conceptual artist Fix Kanu surprises by referring to Being John Malkovich scenario along with slightly more expected offerings such as The Electronic Superhighway (1995) by Nam June Paik and My black death (2015) by Arthur Jaffa. But that’s the magic of New Reader—the unexpected connections that make human existence unpredictable, collected and presented as jewels to be treasured and contemplated. In its distinctive format, the New Reader celebrates and prioritizes independent thought.

“When you look at the contributors—a young politician, a professional skateboarder, a Harvard professor, a bottle owner—the only place where all of these people can physically exist is a place like New York.” – Ellie Rosenbloom

Rosenbloom and Nguyen sift through the books each subject mentions, scan and archive the most relevant sections from each, and incorporate them organically into the main body of the interview. Hyperlinks in each interview take you to images and mentions, allowing the mind to move in non-linear directions, opening up the possibility of unconventional juxtaposition of information and creating an environment where new ideas are born more easily.

This library is a rare thing: a digital celebration of the tangible, and when on the rare occasion New Reader goes physical, the reader experience is just as thoroughly thought out. With their reading room at Whaam! Gallery in 2021 Rosenbloom and Nguyen collected reading recommendations from designer Andre Walker, architect John Pawson, musician Arka, photographer Liz Johnson Arthur, and writer Fran Lebovitz, among others. Visitors sat and flipped through copies of these testimonials at an aluminum table and chair designed by Donald Judd and a functional artwork by Dozie Kanu. Custom Vitsoe shelves held the precious volumes on loan. In tandem with the Reading Room, New Reader provided a directory of every independent bookstore in New York at the time of installation.

“New Reader allows you to track how books and knowledge are acquired and applied,” says Rosenbloom. It’s a meeting place for geeks who live online and offline, an exercise in connection and empathy, and a deeply intimate presentation of information. “Books are something you touch and hold and cherish—they’re deeply personal that way,” says Rosenbloom. In a context of fast news cycles, declining attention spans, fake news, and dwindling resources, making books accessible is all the more important. New Reader did just that: turned the intimidating, the inaccessible, and the dry into something sexy, something special, and something worth living for.

Visit New Reader here.

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