On the Road Reading Lamp

Thom Merrick

20 April 1996

Installation (fluorescent light, PVC, steel, washed book in laundry bag) 110 x 326 x 144 cm

The series Reading Lamps is built with car seat covers accompanied with a book that has been previously washed in a washing-machine. Merrick had this to say about it, “because it is literature, it is timeless or something. You have to be able to shape that timelessness into the here and now. The use of a book (…) and to put it in a washing-machine makes it ‘right now’. So the printed matter congeals into matter. (…) As far as the car-covers are concerned, they’re really inspired by Isamo Noguchi (…) the designer. He makes these rice-paper lamps. They are very light-weight. There is this very beautiful paper, and they are very zen. (…) Mine are not delicate or zen. (…) These are reading lamps, but it’s really, it seems, from these very delicate, beautiful Noguchis. They’re lamps – okay, it’s a car-cover, some people see a car perhaps.” The books used by Merrick for his three “lamps” are On the Road by Kerouac, Lolita by Nabokov and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and according to him, they share the theme of travelling “If you could make these books into three different parts of the same story about travelling your brain drifts within the self: sex, death, insanity, or all three.” In relation with Kerouac’s book, the “lamp” that has been included here, he says: “On the Road, of course, is Kerouac’s travels around the United States making alcoholic travels as well, while he is in motion. But it’s also very descriptive about these landscapes and the expansion of the land, an account of how that affects him internally. (…) I read a lot of Kerouac’s work when I was young. It permeates, maybe, that kind of freedom and all this kind of romantic, ideological mental travelling.”