The Portal

Copy, Paste, Map

Collage by Jiwon Geum, Kyle Herrington, Zehra Begüm Kisla, Ursula Pokorny, Olivia Rodrigues, and Calvin Wang.

Copy, Paste, Map takes inspiration from Pati Hill’s practice, primarily her piece from 1980 to 1983 in which she photocopied the entirety of Versailles Palace, square by square and 1:1, with a Xerox machine. In Vers Versailles, the photocopied reproduction of an object becomes a means to rethink methods of identification, communication, and knowledge production. Photocopiers are meant to duplicate information—but how can a performative and reflexive employment of such a tool complicate the role of books, archives, and libraries as modes of documentation? How can facsimiles remove the larger context of an item or idea while also conveying information true to the source material? To what degree do the personal interests and idiosyncratic working methods of the person operating the photocopier influence how information is recorded, thus informing successive rounds of research and understanding?

Copy, Paste, Map is a fluid and embodied response to The Portal and its collection of books through a series of photocopies. Second-year graduate students from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College will occupy the space with one or two mobile photocopying machines, re-imaging a selection of details from The Portal. These can be anything, the edge of your thumb on the page, the recto, the verso, the cover, the spine, the bookshelf screw, nothing. Here, notions of research as isolated and static are challenged, as the physical act of interacting with The Portal and the resulting material ephemera expose the potential of libraries and archives as malleable and improvisational sites of active engagement.

The cohort will work in rotating pairs, with two people photocopying and annotating, two people documenting the process, and two people greeting visitors. The books will be organized in The Portal as-is: limiting any prescribed way of approaching the materials and leading to a more organic interaction that is responsive to how the space is used day-to-day. Through these multiple rounds of activation, the physical traces of our engagement (photocopies, annotations, post-its, and more) will visibly map overlapping, intersecting, and clashing lines of inquiry, revealing complex chains of association that highlight sites of research and repositories of knowledge as living, subjective, and ever evolving. This activation will be open for the public to view, ponder, and even participate in, as they see fit.


This program grew out of Memory House, a practice-based course organized by Cori Olinghouse. Students were invited to build a reading room that is multisensory in form. Claiming a space not typically reserved for performance’s ephemerality, or its unruliness, this project returns to the enclosed space of books as a generative constraint for wildness. Expanding modes of reading, the course explored the movements between orality, textuality, visuality, and tactility, understanding there is no primary way to “read” a thing.

Guiding inquiry: How can performance expand practices of reading? How can we learn from the way performers approach language and notation, utilizing one’s body to access words and ideas? What are the movements in and out of oral traditions and textual forms? What is an embodied document or resource? How can language act as a retrieval system for the senses? When and how does language fail? What about the non-semantic uses of language like concrete poetry? What about the construction of personal coding and notation systems?