I’m all for guerrilla art of just about any sort—I’ll even admit to missing the old painted subway cars, although not the nasty interiors or the regular muggings. But any kind of sneaky aesthetic irregulars, out to make a point or just make you look, are champs as far as I’m concerned. And if the art is good, so much the better.
Over in Edinburgh, a stealthy book-and-paper artist has been leaving lovely and delicate works around the city’s cultural hotspots, complete with love letters. The first showed up in March at the Scottish Poetry Library, addressed to @byleaveswelive, the Library’s Twitter username, and the note read:
It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.…
… We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.…
This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)
The sculpture, of a paper “poetree” growing out of a book, was accompanied by a gold-lined paper egg containing word fragments that, when assembled, formed poet Edwin Morgan’s “A Trace of Wings.” There was no name attached, and for a while it was thought to be a fantastic one-off gift. Then in June, another piece arrived at the National Library of Scotland. This one involved a paper gramophone and coffin, and Ian Rankin’s book Exit Music. Another appeared at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, a marvelous diorama of charging horseback warriors and an intent cinema audience watching them, all set in a theater of books. One of the tiny paper viewers bore Ian Rankin’s face, but when questioned, the author insisted he had nothing to do with the mysterious artwork.
In July, a sculpture of a newly-hatched dragon in a nest of words appeared in a window of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The Edinburgh International Book Festival, held in August, received two: a paper cup of tea and cupcake on a very literary tea tray, and a small figure hiding in a forest fashioned from a copy of James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. One more, in the form of a paper magnifying glass atop a book, with a quote by Edwin Morgan, cropped up toward the end of August at the Central Lending Library on George IV Bridge.
All of the pieces were accompanied by handwritten notes, each one personalized but each beginning, “This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas.” No other motivation seems to be driving the gifts, other than a smart bit of promotion by their creator, whoever it is. A retired librarian named Garry Gale has come forward saying he knows the artist’s identity, having bought a similar-looking sculpture earlier in the year, but he’s agreed not to reveal it. A smart move, I think—who doesn’t like a mystery? And whoever’s making these lovely pieces in the name of libraries, books, words, and ideas deserves to play it out however he or she likes.