On view at the Sigmund Freud Museum: Julius Deutschbauer Library of Unread Books

Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna, 5 April through 10 June 2001

For almost four years, the artist Julius Deutschbauer has been operating a library for unread books. As a librarian he has collected more than 400 books, all of which have a single characteristic in common: Their owners would have liked to have read them, but never fulfilled their good intentions. The Library of Unread Books, which since 1997 has offered its inventory to potential readers at a variety of locations, including the Vienna Kunsthalle and the Hamburg Kammerspielen, was at the Sigmund Freud Museum from 5 April through 10 June 2001. The idea that today the number of books that are not read far exceeds the number that are led Deutschbauer to establish the itinerant library.

The artist's bibliophile activity swings between two opposing ideals: He displays reverence for his professional colleague in Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities, who out of principle does not read books, because "whoever drops their guard to their contents is lost," but also honors the servile bookworm of James Joyce's Ulysses, who delights in the discussion of books. Whereas for Freud it is the wish that serves as the mainspring of nocturnal dreaming, Deutschbauer's library attempts to fulfill reading desires interpersonally by day: Each of the library's users proves to be an assistant in fulfilling a displaced wish by realizing another individual's desire to read.

Occasionally the librarian himself was present in the Sigmund Freud Museum's exhibition space. Dressed in a gray housecoat, he assisted visitors in salon chitchat about books that are only known through hearsay. With those who are invited to contribute an unread book, Deutschbauer conducted interviews that are recorded on minidisc for his "Bibliothekographie." As noted in the visitors' regulations of the Library of Unread Books, these interviews can be played back on demand. Deutschbauer's project succeeds in completely avoiding moralizing finger-pointing at embarrassing educational deficiencies. He is more concerned with documenting books that have not yet been laid to rest through reading. In his interviews, which just like The Man Without Qualities begin with a report on current weather conditions, the book circulates as a libidinous object, as a rumor, supposition, guilty conscience or simply as something that is mentioned in passing so as to give conversation another direction.

The exact recording of the interviews about unread books corresponds to the fastidious logic of the archive in spiting the dust of time. In this case it registers the overabundance of printed knowledge as a point of individual emptiness. Organized alphabetically according to the names of the people that have not read them, the volumes ironically comment on the classificatory ordering of the world found in archival storage facilities. In this logic a single author can at the same time be a principle of categorization and a categorized object: H.C. Artmann, as one sees from the stamp on one of the first books, never had a look at Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities. Just the same, he himself is one of the unread authors, as is demonstrated by the presence of his Collected Prose on the shelves. Psychoanalysts like August Ruhs would also have liked to have read him, but never got around to it.

Deutschbauer does not limit his offering of modern educational programming to library interviews. The mixture of chilly library and bourgeois living room atmospheres created by his interior also provides the setting for "living library" events that are analogous in style to the efforts of contemporary museum educational departments. The props for stuffy conversation are put to good use in reading circles devoted to themes like "last sentences," in which the closing sentences of the library's entire inventory are read aloud. For the Sigmund Freud Museum, Deutschbauer produced a special video that is shown to the Library of Unread Book's users during the museum's usual opening hours.