Bookless at the Madison Public Library's central branch on Saturday night felt like a rabbit hole into a much bigger city.

Two hours in, the line snaked out the door and around the corner.  Inside, the reference desk had been transformed into a bar, staffed by Merchant. The walls were covered in paint and old library cards, the signs all switched around, with a photo booth just inside the door.

There were video installations and live music on every floor. There was an oracle, where you could send a question down a pneumatic tube and get answers to life's most persistent questions. A friend asked what her baby daughter would be when she grows up. The answer: A constellation.

There were sculptures made of microfiche boxes, a room painted Pepto Bismol-pink, enormous installations made of blue cereal bowls and tangled pipes. Artists repurposed everything from furniture to metal dividers to the walls themselves.

Downstairs there was a "bibliotheque discotheque" with a DJ and people vaguely bouncing in rhythm, overseen by a threatening dragon skeleton. *shiver*

Trent Miller, who organized the event, said he was "thrilled" at how many people responded.

"I was so excited to see what's possible -- people who wouldn't go to the contemporary art museum coming out to see this," he said.

As of Monday morning Miller is still getting numbers in, but he estimated 2,500 people at the daytime events alone and perhaps an equal number at the late-night party.

I'll second the sentiment of the women at the Library as Incubator Project: When can we do this again?


Set-up for Angela Richardson's second-floor butterfly installation.

Madison Guy, AKA Peter Patau, on Bookless at Madison Public Library.

Kelly Hafermann on Bookless Madison.

From Dane101, Christian Neuhaus took nighttime photos of the art; Emily Mills was there during the day.

The Madison Public Library's own photo set is enormous, and dominated by the photo booth images. You may well be in one of them.



Food editor and arts writer Lindsay Christians has been writing for the Cap Times since 2008. She hosts the food podcast The Corner Table and runs a program for student theater critics. Member @AFJEats and @ATCA. She/ her/ hers.

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