GLAM: Chris Gaul Artist in Residence

In 2012 I spent six months at UTS Library as their first artist in residence. Working alongside the librarians, I creating artistic interventions in the library and artworks exploring the library collection. Dr Chris Caines and Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw have also undertaken residencies and the program has become an exciting model for artistic engagement in libraries. My time at the library In 2012 UTS Library had recently made the significant decision to store eighty percent of its collection in automated underground storage. With so much of the collection buried away beneath the campus, digital interfaces would soon be the only way for visitors to search or browse the bulk of the collection. With this in mind, I spent my time exploring ways to reimagining sterile and uninspiring digital interfaces as creative, playful tools to encourage exploration and serendipitous discovery. I designed two interactive works: a radio tuner for ‘tuning in’ to books and a telephone for ‘dialing’ them.

Library Frequency Tuner from Chris Gaul on Vimeo.

Library Frequency Tuner 2012 Chris Gaul, produced in collaboration with Dr Jos Mulder and Prof. Bert Bongers of the UTS Interactivation Studio.


Call Number Telephone from Chris Gaul on Vimeo.

Call Number Telephone 2012 Chris Gaul, produced in collaboration with Dr Jos Mulder and Prof. Bert Bongers of the UTS Interactivation Studio.

  I also created ‘library spectrograms’: a system for visualising library collections inspired by the science of spectroscopy:  

Photo: Library Spectrogram 2012 by Chris Gaul

Photo: Library Spectrogram 2012 by Chris Gaul

Photo: Library Spectrogram (Detail) 2012  by Chris Gaul

Photo: Library Spectrogram (Detail) 2012 by Chris Gaul

  These whimsical artistic experiments lead to practical benefits as well: I designed an interactive spectrogram that the library integrated into their catalogue search interface. Starting a residency UTS Library’s program is an excellent model for libraries interested in setting up their own artist residency. The library first created an advisory panel to select appropriate artists. In this case, UTS Library invited academics and art curators from the UTS community to advise them. The library provides an artist fee as well as funds for the production of artworks. The artist may participate in panel discussions or other library events and often publishes a blog. At the conclusion of the residency, the library funds a small exhibition of works by the artist and arranges for their documentation to share them online.

Shelf Life from Chris Gaul on Vimeo.

Artist residencies benefit the library community and the artist in all sorts of different and surprising ways. The presence of a resident artist encourages library staff and visitors to consider the library from unexpected perspectives, provoking an abundance of discussion and ideas. In return, the library offers a rich source of inspiration to the artist, along with the unique opportunity to develop artworks that draw on the librarians’ professional knowledge and perspectives.

Chris Gaul is an artist and designer. In addition to producing works he also curates exhibitions, writes and lectures on art and design and teaches in the UTS School of Design.  twitter: @mrchrisgaul


  1. Mary Ann J. Salvador · · Reply

    In the Philippines, the Lopez Museum and Library (the has a very good collaborative program with the artists. In their annual exhibition for the “Zero-in” in consortium with other museums and galleries in Metro Manila, they invite artists to get inspiration or use their library collection as spring-board of their ideas in conceptualizing their artworks alongside their collection of masterpieces. More libraries should welcome the idea of adopting artist into their abode to get inspiration and to inspire library personnel to become creative as well. The library as creatiVENUE… why not?

    1. I absolutely agree Mary Ann. A few of the State Libraries and the National Library of Australia offer creative arts fellowships and other kinds of opportunities for artists to be engaged, but it is less common I think in some other kinds of libraries. – Kate

  2. Mary Ann J. Salvador · · Reply

    a very innovative venture!

  3. This is great and unique

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