Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Paul Benzon (he/him/his) is an assistant professor in the English Department at Skidmore College. He is the author of Archival Fictions: Materiality, Form, and Media History in Contemporary Literature (2021).


What happens to a library in the desert? How does it transform as a material object under these pressures, and what might these transformations tell us about its capacity for bearing and registering history? This article considers these questions in relation to the artist Noah Purifoy’s found-object installation Library of Congress, one of approximately thirty works that make up the ten-acre space of the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art in Joshua Tree, California. The museum consists of a wide range of found-object sculptures, all deeply enmeshed within the space of the desert. The museum, and indeed Purifoy’s work as a whole, are deeply invested in a complex social and political dialogue with assemblage and thing theory of the sort popularized by Bill Brown and Jane Bennett, constellating objects within space as a way of mapping the shape of postwar Blackness. Library in particular consciously asks what happens to the racial stakes of assemblage when the things in question are books and the site in question is a library.

(Included in the issue section "Beyond the Book")