The Surplus Library

The Surplus Library is a project by Antonia Hirsch.

The creation of this site was generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.

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Desire implies want; it is the appetite of the mind, and as natural as hunger to the body.... The greatest number (of things) have their value from supplying the wants of the mind.1

Libraries embody numerous utopian ideals, such as that of the commons and of shared knowledge production. Understood as social sites, their defining characteristic consists of the circulation of ideas. Similar to capital, the ideas contained in books must circulate to be of, or generate, value.

The Surplus Library’s collection consists of books relevant to the topic of affect and economic exchange. The association of these two terms is based on the assumption that personal relationships are produced by economic activity, for example in the process of trade and the division of labour. Conversely, affect, and in particular desire, generates economic transactions: it is the needing and wanting that demands to be satisfied by goods or immaterial values such as care, attention, or love, all of which entail multifarious forms of exchange.

In redefining the concept of a physical library, the Surplus Library on Affect & Economic Exchange operates on the basic assumption that its specific collection of books already exists in the material world: in the homes and private collections of countless individuals. Some of the holdings of this vast and distributed library can become known and accessible through The Surplus Library site. The site develops as the library’s holdings and locations are registered by users.

The site provides “portraits” of the particular books in its collection, yet the books’ content cannot be accessed online. Instead, person-to-person borrowing and lending (owing and extending credit) in the physical world is facilitated by the site, thereby defying efficiency and convenience in its coupling of the material and the virtual. The project functions as a highly idiosyncratic register of literature on its specific topic, while concurrently embodying the subject of its holdings: quasi economic, non-monetary exchanges trading on curiosity, desire, and trust; i.e., affect.

Antonia Hirsch, June 2011

Notes
  1. 1. Nicholas Barbon, A Discourse of Coining the New Money Lighter, In Answer to Mr. Locke’s Considerations etc. (London, 1696), quoted in Karl Marx, Capital (New York: Vintage, 1977), chapter 1, “The Commodity,” 125

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The Surplus Library’s collection consists of books relevant to the topic of affect and economic exchange. The project functions as an idiosyncratic register of literature on this specific topic, while concurrently embodying the subject of its holdings: quasi economic, non-monetary exchanges trading on affect.

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