Alumni mural program: Make or Break

In Cover Crush, Make or Break (Connie Anthes and Bec Gallo) have spot-lit books found side-by-side on UNSW Library shelves, creating relations that are provocative, humorous, and poetic.


When:

December 2023 - 2026
 

Where:

Main Library, Level 6 lift foyer

 

In this era of online searching, remote learning, and offsite library storage, Make or Break reminds us of the pleasures and unexpected connections that come from IRL (in real life) browsing. Fingers drift lightly across vellum spines, pausing occasionally on gilt typography or an intriguing title; eyes meet through rows of books; a sigh is heard from the other side of a study nook; notes are discovered scrawled in margins by long-ago students. 

In Cover Crush, Make or Break have spot-lit books found side-by-side on UNSW Library shelves, creating relations that are provocative, humorous, and poetic. This mural reveals the ways knowledge is organised, judged, and privileged by the Dewey Decimal Classification protocol and how ideas can rub up against one another unexpectedly to create content flirtations and suggestive subtexts.

Make or Break plays among and critiques systems of knowledge and social relations. Previous projects include creating experimental economies and temporary currencies; caring for civic spaces and the ‘non-human’; celebrating the labour of strangers; prototyping for future worlds; writing speculative fiction; and facilitating conversations as collective research.

Make or Break is a collaboration led by Connie Anthes and Bec Gallo, a graduate of UNSW Art & Design. They have exhibited work at the Institute of Modern Art in Meanjin/Brisbane, Next Wave Festival in Naarm/Melbourne, UTS Art in Eora/Sydney, the Thailand Biennale, and the Yokohama Triennale. In 2023, they were artists in residence at Helsinki International Artist Programme, Finland. They live and work on the stolen lands of the Gadigal/Bidjigal people in Eora/Sydney.

Accessibility: UNSW Main Library is wheelchair accessible. Large-text artwork labels and a link to the audio guide are available on Level 6. Braille exhibition guides are to come.

Image gallery

Audio guide

Bec Gallo of collective duo Make or Break audio-describes the mural Cover Crush. The approximate run time is 6 minutes. 

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    Transcript of audio description of mural

    Cover Crush, a mural by Make or Break (Connie Anthes and Bec Gallo). Commissioned and completed in 2023 as part of the UNSW Library Alumni Mural Program.

    My name is Bec, and I am part of the collective duo Make or Break. We created Cover Crush, a mural on Level 6 of UNSW Library, that is part of the UNSW Library Alumni mural program.

    Cover Crush is a mural stretching across the full length of two facing walls in the level 6 foyer area. Each wall is approximately eleven metres long, with a strikingly coloured orange floor between them. The mural walls are interrupted on each side by three black elevator doors and one large metallic elevator button. A narrow, floor-to-ceiling digital sign punctuates the centre of the north wall. One end of the foyer leads to the library, and the other, a series of horizontal windows faces west, looking out to a distant Sydney skyline. The windows bring natural light to the mural area; the hue on the walls gently shifts as the sun travels across the sky. 

    The mural appears bright and playful – lavender walls pop with flourishes of orange forms. As you move closer, you’re drawn into the animation of pairs and trios of stylised book spines. On each wall, around 20 of these playful groupings are clustered around the architectural fixtures and fittings. The spines are softened or impossibly bent to lean into one another, coil, stack, and jut. They rest, float, twist, and dance between floor and ceiling, between fixtures, fittings and library signage. Some book spines are piled quietly in corners; others droop lazily from on top of elevator doors, or twine rambunctiously up the wall. 

    The spines are coloured one of three shades of orange, complementing the vinyl floor. Each has a black title with a distinctive, contrasting font. The titles, found consecutively on the shelves as organised by the Dewey Decimal system, create strange poetry, unexpected anomalies, and at times pure absurdity. Titles include: 

    Creative Thinking and Brainstorming alongside Tragic Choices
    Crystal Clear Communication
    next to You Can’t Say That to Me!
    Common Sense & Uranium
    paired with Nuclear Madness

    We trawled the UNSW Library shelves to find these moments of strange poetry and revealing juxtaposition. By sharing these unexpected pairings, we want to encourage a sense of exploration and playfulness, of getting lost in the library. We are also gently prodding at the monolithic organising logic of the Dewey Decimal system that is not as objective as it seems. Who decides which knowledges are important and how they connect? 

    Choosing to use real book titles from the library and presenting them as enticing, even cute objects, allows us as artists to occupy a space that is more critical and questioning, even subversive. 

    Accompanying the mural is a description on the wall, which reads:

    In this era of online searching, remote learning, and offsite library storage, Make or Break reminds us of the pleasures and unexpected connections that come from IRL (in real life) browsing. Imagine fingers drifting lightly across vellum spines, pausing occasionally on gilt typography or an intriguing title. You hear a sigh from the other side of a study nook; meet someone’s eyes through rows of books; discover notes scrawled in margins by long-ago students. A library is an archive of knowledge, history, and thought that should be free and accessible, always. 

    For Cover Crush, Make or Break selected books found side-by-side on UNSW Library shelves. When you read their titles together like a story or a poem, they become provocative, humorous, and sometimes totally absurd. Words and ideas rub up against one another unexpectedly to create content flirtations and suggestive subtexts. 

    Revealing these hidden stories and meanings is a way to start thinking about how knowledge is organised by the Dewey Decimal Classification protocol. This system, used by libraries in over 130 countries, privileges and connects knowledge and information in particular ways. Which concepts are given more space, and how is authority or stature reinforced by which ideas are placed alongside one another? Whose writing and research get published and included, and whose voices are left out?

    Make or Break plays among and critiques systems of knowledge and social relations. In previous projects, they have created experimental economies and temporary currencies; cared for civic spaces and the ‘non-human’ by repairing bridges or transforming gallery walls into soil improvers; celebrated the labour of strangers; and written the news for future worlds.

    Make or Break is a collaboration led by Connie Anthes and Bec Gallo, who is a graduate of UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. They have exhibited in the Thailand Biennale and the Yokohama Triennale, as well as the Institute of Modern Art in Meanjin/Brisbane, Next Wave in Naarm/Melbourne, and Lismore Regional Gallery on Bundjalung Country. In 2023, they were artists in residence at Helsinki International Artist Programme, Finland. They live and work on the stolen lands of the Gadigal/Bidjigal people in Eora/Sydney.

Events

Activity - Cover Crush: Book Shelfies

UNSW Library invites you to get acquainted with our book collection in real life, and to find your own book pairings that create unexpected poetry or humour. Share using the hashtag #UNSWLibraryCoverCrush to claim your limited edition tote bag and pencil case!

When: Wednesday 7 February, 2pm - 4pm; Thursday 8 February, 10am - 12pm; Wednesday 14 February, 2pm - 4pm. 

Where: Main Library, Level 2 Study Lounge