Murderous Mary the Biennale Bear

Red Valchromat Shelf with capacity for 500 copies of 'Project Biennale' Book, Brackets, 1 Poster, 499 Blank Sheets of A3 paper, Elephant's Foot, Artists' Copy of 'Project Biennale' on loan from The Unicoi County Public Library, Erwin, Tennessee, USA, Logistical Error.

The Unicoi County Public Library
201 Nolichucky Avenue
Erwin, TN 37650-1237

Director: Angie Georgeff

Dear Ms. Georgeff,

I am writing on behalf of The Hut Project, a group of artists from London, England. We are writing to offer the Col. J.F. Toney Memorial Library the gift of a collection of books.

One of our recent artworks was a contribution to a book called Project Biennale. Our contribution was an 'advert' offering an exchange to the readers: if they took their copy of Project Biennale out of circulation by posting it back to us, we would send them a limited edition print in return. This print was an image of the 1916 hanging of Murderous Mary the elephant, in Erwin, Tennessee. As a result of this work, we would like to propose a permanent loan to the collection of the Library of all the copies of Project Biennale that have or will ever be returned to us.

Our intention in proposing this gift is that the Library would become the permanent site for the returned books. However, we would also like to be able to loan the books ourselves should they be required for future exhibitions. In this respect we would pay for all shipping costs incurred, as well as all initial expenses in gifting the books to the Library. The Project Biennale book was printed in an edition of 500, but we expect the actual number of books returned to be far lower than this.

Do you think this is something that the Library might be interested in being involved with? I have included below a short explanation of our interest in Erwin and our intentions for this work, as well as links to our own website and that of Project Biennale. In the meantime please feel free to ask any questions you may have about our proposal.

We very much hope you will be able to accept this gift, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Yours with Best Wishes,
Jessica Maliszewski –

On behalf of Chris, Ian and Alec (The Hut Project)

On behalf of Chris, Ian and Alec (The Hut Project)

'In April of this year we were invited to take part in an 'exhibition in book form' called Project Biennale. The book contained contributions from selected artists and curators, and was launched in the summer at the 53rd International Art Exhibition: the Venice Biennale, in Italy.

We had a notion that international art exhibitions were something like traveling circuses, animating a particular locale for a brief period then moving on, and in the course of researching for Project Biennale we came across the infamous image of Murderous Mary. The image was so striking we felt compelled to look into its history. We found many conflicting anecdotes about the hanging, various interpretations of its significance in the political context of America at the time, and discussions of the image itself and its veracity. The vitality around the image was fascinating: how active the folklore remained after all this time; the ways it spoke about social histories and political contexts like colonialism, slavery, gender; what it said about image-making, appropriation and representation. In particular we were struck that all this could be extrapolated from a single starting point, an unlikely image of an elephant's death that somehow exceeded the limits of a 'mere photograph'.

After the launch of Project Biennale we wanted to find a way for the books that were returned to us to remain active, in other words to embed the artwork permanently within a process of circulation. We wanted this process of circulation to relate to the nature of the work as a book project, and also to relate to the subject matter it dealt with, Murderous Mary. This is where we thought of approaching the library of Erwin. The curators of Project Biennale described the book as 'a show without necessary geographic foundations'. In gifting the books to the Library, we aim for our artwork to exist in a circuit between the readers of Erwin, the readers of Project Biennale, and the future viewers who may see this work in exhibition form. Just like the image, the artwork will be 'grounded' in Erwin but connected to various sites and interpretations through its distribution; the work will be at once within Erwin and outside of it.'

- The Hut Project


Dear Ms Maliszewski,

After consulting with the president of our Board of Directors, I would like to accept the kind offer you outlined in your e-mail of September 25. We will look forward to receiving the books and to giving them a home in Erwin. On behalf of the Unicoi County Public Library, thank you for this unique gift.


Angie Georgeff, Director
Unicoi County Public Library
201 Nolichucky Avenue
Erwin, TN 37650


Hi Jaspar

Thanks for posting the copy of PB, which i got today. Unfortunately our page still carries the first address we gave you rather than the second version we were expecting to be there. This makes a problem for the work as the first address isn't valid, meaning any books that have been returned to us so far will have been lost or returned to sender.

Do you know what went wrong?

In any case it would be good if I could give you a ring to talk about this because we're showing 'Murderous Mary' in an exhibition next month, and the printing error somewhat complicates the 'circuit' that drives the work. I think it's something we'll be able to resolve (in fact this new scenario complicates the work in quite an interesting way) but it would be good to find out some info about how PB exists now and how it was distributed so we can make the work function properly again.

Will you let me know a good time to call?