Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation
Svalbard Seedbed Library Nexus, 2016. Acrylic paint and gel painted over archival print, 68 x 38 inches.

Ellen K. Levy | Meme Machines | Art Wall on Third Exhibition Series

The Art Collection presents the site-specific exhibition Meme Machines by established multi-media artist and scholar Ellen K. Levy. The exhibition explores cultural evolution by visualizing varied ways of creating and transmitting knowledge. Meme Machines comprises four mixed-media vertically-oriented works, consisting of paint and gel over prints on archival paper and an animation. 

The animation video Migratory Patterns of Public Secrets analogizes the reticulated growth of dendrites in neural networks to the pathways of communication in public library networks. The formation of these patterns is the common subject of the video and still images. To watch  a clip from Migratory Patterns of Public Secrets  click here

Each still work portrays an architectural structure whose shape and patterning stem from the contingencies of its history. The USPTO Nexus traces the US Patent and Trademark Office with origins dating to the formation of the union from its inception as centralized building housing physical models to its current state as a vast dissemination library network whose archive now relies on electronic transmission. The Haidara Library Nexus is a portrait of the Haidara Library at Timbuktu. It is portrayed as embedded within the interlocking threads of its manuscript collection. Its fragile archive was assembled along ancient and dangerous cultural transmission routes. The Oriental Institute Nexus, based on the Institute’s Library at the University of Chicago, maintains an active database of looted antiquities and broadcasts these images and pertinent information on the internet. The Svalbard Seed Library Nexus is an interpretive portrait of Svalbard’s remote, sequestered seed bank in Norway. Its mission is to duplicate the world's unique crop genetic resources, anticipating ecological loss. 

The artist’s aim is that these architectural shapes develop similar to living organisms and evoke the close reciprocity between our minds and our communications with the world that surrounds us. 

Acclaimed novelist Siri Hustvedt joins Ellen K. Levy for An Artist Dialogue Series event on Wednesday May 10 at 6:30 PM inside the Corner Room on the 1st floor. 

The exhibition series Art Wall on Third is curated by Arezoo Moseni.

Ellen  K. Levy, Meme Machines, 2017.
Ellen  K. Levy, Meme Machines, 2017. 


Artist Statement

Meme Machines, the title of my exhibition, refers to Richard Dawkins’s claim that the meme is the cultural equivalent of the gene. As meme machines, we generate, propagate, and evolve ideas; the process is typified by our libraries. What if a library, like a living organism, evolved itself in accordance with its collections? I have portrayed the shapes of four libraries, Svalbard’s Seed Bank in Norway, The USPTO patent library, the Haidara Library at Timbuktu, and the Oriental Institute Library at the University of Chicago to suggest how the traumas and circumstances that surround the history of selected collections might be visually expressed. In these works, twisted armatures are painted over printed architectural structures. They may suggest unseen memories or paths of thought that can infect and instigate new pathways. A related animation accompanies the still images.

Ellen K. Levy, still image from Migratory Patterns of Public Secrets animation
Ellen K. Levy, still image from the animation Migratory Patterns of Public Secrets.

Ellen K. Levy, a New York-based artist, is currently Special Advisor on the Arts and Sciences at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts and was President of the College Art Association (2004-2006). She earned her doctorate from the University of Plymouth (2012) and received her diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston following a BA from Mount Holyoke College in Zoology. Levy has had numerous solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including the New York and the National Academy of Sciences, Associated American Artists, and Michael Steinberg Fine Arts (both NYC). Her honors include an arts commission from NASA (1985) and an AICA (Art Critic) award (1995-1996), and she was Distinguished Visiting Fellow of Arts and Sciences at Skidmore College (1999). She has published widely on art and complex systems. For additional information please visit the artist's  website

April 6th, 2017 - June 28th, 2017 Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street