PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Friedman Hall, among the busiest classroom buildings in the heart of the Brown University campus, has a new trick up its sleeve.
Now adorning the building’s first-floor corridor is the piece “What I Know About Magic,” created by artist and Brown Class of 1989 graduate Nina Katchadourian. The series of 12 photographs, which show collections of books about magic and the occult artfully arranged in clever, humorous and thought-provoking ways, is one of the newest additions to Brown’s diverse public art collection.
According to Kate Kraczon, chair of Brown’s Public Art Working Group, Katchadourian spent years delving into the H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring and Magicana at the University’s John Hay Library, working with collection curator Tiffini Bowers to find books whose titles could tell both funny and meaningful stories about society’s fascination with talented magicians, mysteries of the universe and tricks of the eye.
“The books in the H. Adrian Smith Collection were fascinating historically, but also aesthetically: there were thick, gilded, leather-bound volumes from the late 19th century as well as slim paper booklets from the 1940s and 50s that often provided instructions on how to perform just one trick,” Katchadourian said. “Magicians seem to be particularly playful in their use of language for the titles of their publications, and since my project focuses so much on language, it was utterly delightful to respond to these authors’ linguistic tricks with a few of my own.”