January 26, 2005

Cabinet National Library

the front of the Cabinet National Library, by Matt Passmore, Jud Holt, Jed Olson and John Bela, Deming, New Mexico

My husband is creative. My husband is a little eccentric. My husband builds libraries in the desert in New Mexico. For fun. Really.

This story began when Matt's favorite art magazine, Cabinet came out with its Spring 2003 issue on the theme of "Property". As a ridiculous conceptual art piece (and I use the word ridiculous with full reverence) Cabinet purchased an acre of uninhabitable scrubland in the middle of New Mexico. They purchased it on Ebay for 100 bucks and began to parcel off magazine-size plots of the land to their readers for a mere penny.

They also mentioned, a bit tongue in cheek, that there was still room for art installations. Matt took this comment as a call for proposals and thought of the silliest thing he could- a library out on the land, just for their magazine, complete with a card catalog and back issues of their publication. It would be housed in a vintage file cabinet (of course) that looked like it sprang from the loins of the earth itself. The Cabinet National Library.

The editors were so amused by the idea that they featured Matt's original email and drawing in the magazine and website. They were incredulous however when, several months later, Matt called them up and said, "I think I'm going to go out there and build it."

With the help of Matt's dear friends {Jud Holt (pictured in previous post), Jed Olson and John Bela} they completed the project last summer. The library is featured in this month's issue of Cabinet. It is a beautiful magazine and beautiful article. You will love it. Congratulations Matt, Jed, Jud, and John!

Matt Passmore, Deming, New Mexico

What do they say? "Build it and they shall come."
or "If you have a crazy idea, dream it, begin it."

or maybe,
"We need men who can dream of things that never were."
John F. Kennedy

Posted on January 26, 2005 09:20 PM

Andrea,Matt,What a wild and kick ass story!Love It!

Posted by: shelly at January 31, 2005 09:54 AM

We took the kids to see the library...

see flickr set here:


Posted by: kristal at January 30, 2005 03:15 PM

what a fantastic story. i love it.

Posted by: azura at January 28, 2005 05:15 PM

That's just awesome!

Posted by: iliana at January 28, 2005 06:55 AM

I LURVE it! Too funny!

Posted by: Angela Giles Klocke at January 28, 2005 05:50 AM

what an amazing idea! If I ever have the opportunity (I live in Europe), I'll come and see it, too.

Posted by: Anja at January 28, 2005 03:24 AM

I can hear the silence in this library.
What a great project. Thanx for sharing with those of us who simply dream of such adventures.

Posted by: kel at January 27, 2005 03:46 PM

That guy is such a CATCH Andrea :)

Posted by: ali at January 27, 2005 12:09 PM

That is so cool. We all need to do something like this.

Posted by: Laura at January 27, 2005 07:38 AM


tell matt i find him inspiring and i love his project so much.

we are going camping in nm next month so send me directions and we'll all go check it out.


Posted by: jenn at January 27, 2005 07:01 AM


Posted by: andrea at January 27, 2005 07:00 AM

I love libraries! Hope that there will be an outcrop to be a nice quiet reference section to sit in!

Posted by: m at January 27, 2005 03:20 AM

this has kept me giggling all day!

i LOVE this project ~ and all the joy, ambition, insight, obsurdity and vision that comes with it!

thank you so much for sharing it andrea!


Posted by: Leonie at January 27, 2005 12:21 AM

Way to go Matt!! I love the originality, and "rugged individualism" of this project!!! I think the mere fact that Matt felt called to do this, speaks volumes about his creativity humor,and zest for life. How great it is that 2 super, creative, delightful beings such as you and Matt are together. What an unstoppable team you 2 must make. Great post!! :)

Posted by: Julia at January 26, 2005 10:04 PM

W - O - W! brilliant! i love your husband. i mean in a admiring-he's cool-i would hang out with him but that's it kinda way... you know what i mean. heh heh. but he's really cool. not many people i know actually do what they dream up and he did it! i admire that! he just gave me the courage do something. i don't know what yet, but hopefully it will manifest. gooooo MATT!! you two are sooo perfect for each other *muah* and thank you for inspiring me always!

Posted by: lucia at January 26, 2005 09:05 PM

props to your husband. I love seeing people with crazy ideas - actually do them...we need much more of that.

Posted by: brian orme at January 26, 2005 06:18 PM

I absolutely love it too!!!

What a great piece of land your husband has. A great view too!!

I love the quirky idea your husband had.

Posted by: Jen at January 26, 2005 03:24 PM

love it, reeeeaally cool!!

What are the directions again...??!!


Posted by: tine at January 26, 2005 02:41 PM

That is just fantastic. It cheered me up no end.

Posted by: tiffany at January 26, 2005 02:36 PM

Deming? That is so funny. I live next door in Las Cruces. We were just talking about where to go on a day trip this weekend. My husband voted for Deming, as his father is buried there. Email me directions so we can check it out!

Posted by: kristal at January 26, 2005 02:12 PM

Love it! Love it ! Love it!

totally inspiring!

Posted by: stef at January 26, 2005 01:53 PM

Correction (for Jason) - Deming is in the South-WEST corner of New Mexico. Oops!

Posted by: Husband at January 26, 2005 12:33 PM

no, duh, it was last summer. nevermind. i should read closer.

Posted by: lena at January 26, 2005 12:25 PM

deming new mexico! where nothing ever happens (except for the annual duck races) and the (formerly) best thift shop in the world just closed! deming! i am so confused. but delighted. i went to college in las cruces and i never thought anything interesting happened in new mexico. i will have to see said library the next time i am home. ok, also, if that picture of matt in my lovely new mexico desert with the sierra madres in the background (right!?) wearing SHORTS was taken recently, i am so jealous as i sit here in chicago while it is snowing, again.

Posted by: lena at January 26, 2005 12:24 PM

Jason - the library is located just off Interstate 10 near Deming, NM (SE corner of the state). Please email me if you'd like directions.

Brooke - it is the very same John Bela! He still uses beet juice, mainly at Burning Man, and Andrea and I know Gregory as well.

Posted by: Husband at January 26, 2005 11:18 AM

Clegg and Guttman did this a while back Here's a picture http://store1.yimg.com/I/artbook_1830_49344029

Posted by: Avrille at January 26, 2005 11:07 AM

Oh, tell your husband he completely just made my week. It's that kind of whimsy that keeps me going.

Posted by: espaņa at January 26, 2005 10:42 AM

John Bela as in the John Bela who, while living in Amherst, MA used to paint his body in beet juice? The one who knows my old housemate Gregory Kellet?

Posted by: brooke at January 26, 2005 10:06 AM

That is brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: JC at January 26, 2005 09:55 AM

I LOVE this! Coolest project and it looks beautiful. I want to go there. Meanwhile -- it would make a great print, too. Thanks for sharing this story, Andrea. ;)

Posted by: emdot at January 26, 2005 09:25 AM

Love it...
I'm actually headed to NM in a few weeks: where is the library?

Posted by: Jason at January 26, 2005 09:24 AM