Store Echo Story
Portraits of 7 bookstores (Computer, audio, speakers, photographs, wood boxes)
An installation by Judith Donath
Dioramas created with Anya Chung

Store Echo Story is an installation featuring the diverse voices of Boston's bookstores.

Although the Washington Post called bookstores "the polar bears of the literary establishment.. . the endangered species that serves as a harbinger for the future", a wide variety of them (but many fewer than a decade ago) are still to be found in and around Boston. Some are generic chain stores, but many are independent -- and some truly singular.

There are bright, business-cheerful mall stores, featuring Oprah-recommended best sellers and inspirational how-to-market-yourself guides. The Marxist bookseller is dim, dense with Lenin anthologies and Black Panther memoirs. The children's bookstores are hum in primary colors, filled with talking animals, rebellious trains and birthday cakes.

This piece -- an auditory art installation -- portrays seven of these stores using readings from books that typify each one.

mouse over the pictures to explore     play audio tracks alone or try different combinations
Schoenhof's Foreign Books
Readers: Eleni Sacre and Dean Hunt
MIT Press Bookstore
Readers: John Jenkins, Kelley Travers, Anne Bunn, Peter Causton, and Matthew Christensen
The Christian Science Reading Room
Recordings courtesy of Christian Science Publishing Society
Calamus Bookstore
Reader: John Mitzel
Harvard Bookstore
Readers: Serena Longo, Ben Forman and Dana Chidiac
The Curious George Store
Readers: Felisia Sainz, Samantha LaChey and Roger Malesky
Revolution Books
Readers: Stan Lawrence, George Bryant, Dave Costa, and Ben O'Leary
the visitor's experience

Walking around the installation, the visitor hears a crowd of voices, rising and falling. As in a cocktail party, sometimes the medley of voices competes indecipherably, while at other times single voices rise clearly.

The installation consists of 7 bookstore portraits. Physically, each portrait is a wooden box containing a collage of images from a store. Each box is also a speaker, playing its individual audio channel.

Visitors approach the individual portraits both to listen and to look. Peering into the diorama, they see a miniature, impressionistic view of the store, and as they draw closer, they hear that portrait's voices clearly, while the others become background sound.

This audio is the central element of the portrait; it consists of layered and processed recordings of passages from books that typify the store, and which were chosen and read by the owners and employees of the store.

Store Echo Story was commissioned by the Boston Book Festival and exhibited at the Boston Public Library, October 2013. [ more photos]

Please contact Judith Donath - judith [at] vivatropolis [dot] com for more information.