Embracing a love of reading without end

Bookmarks spotlights the personalities and published books of faculty, staff and alumni.

Today, Visual Arts professor Kirsty Robertson, author of Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Culture, Museums, answers questions on her ‘bookishness’ and writing.

Robertson’s research focuses on activism, visual culture, and changing economies. Since 2008, she has been interested in textiles, the textile industry and textile-based arts. She has also written on textiles, craftivism and technology while investigating petrotextiles (that is, textiles that are made from oil and that disintegrate into plastic microfilaments). Her on-going interest in critical museum studies has enabled her to focus on small-scale collections that work against traditional museum formats.

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What book do we find you reading tonight?

I’m currently reading Kylie Message’s Disobedient Museum and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot.

How you decide what to read?

I’m a voracious reader, and right now I’m working my way through the giant pile of books that have come out in my field in the last year. In terms of fiction, I usually buy a huge box of books from the London Public Library book sale each year and read until they are gone.

Name one book you wish you had written. And why.

Friction by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. It is beautifully written, brilliant, and moving.

Name one book you could never finish. And why.

I have had Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love sitting on my bedside table for a year now. I can’t bring myself to read the last essay because I don’t ever want the book to end. LBS has a new book now, so I should finish Islands and start As We Have Always Done. I do sometimes find that I don’t want an amazing book to end.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I am a sucker for the Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries set in the Scottish Highlands. My mother-in-law sends them to me and they are ridiculous escapism.

Any genres you avoid? And why.

I’m not a huge fan of biographies.

If you could require every university president to read one book, what would it be? And why.

Karen Ho. Liquidated. It’s an ethnography of Wall Street and does an excellent job of exposing the rot that underpins profit-driven initiatives. She writes about corporate culture, but her ideas and evidence map nicely on to universities.

What sort of objects are must-haves in your writing environment?

Natural light and tea.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Lucy Lippard and Donna Haraway. They probably know one another and have dinner together all the time, but I’d definitely like to join them.

How do you explain what your latest book is about to them?

I would tell them that my latest book in about museums and activism, but I would talk mostly about my new project, the Museum of Future Fossils, which is a speculative project about curating, climate change, the Anthropocene, and museums.

What is the best line you have ever written?

It’s not a line, but the piece of writing I’m most proud of was an article on plastiglomerate that I wrote for e-flux, an international art journal.

Who would you want to write your life story?

Having said I’m not a fan of biographies, I’ll just leave my own to be written in the evidence of my published work and the memories of my friends and family.

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Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Culture, Museums by Visual Arts professor Kirsty Robertson will be published in 2019.