20 Jan – 4 Mar 2012

LIBRARY: Indigenous to offices and shared workplaces around the world, xeroxlore - defined as anonymously printed and photocopied urban folklore - comes in the form or cartoons, mottoes, poems, sayings and parodic memoranda.

SPACE's library hosts a collection of such material gathered in America and the UK by folklorists Alan Dundes, Carl Patger and Nicolas Locke between the 60s and the late 90s.

Alan Dundes and Carl Patger published their first anthology of American xeroxlore in 1975. For the authors this work challenged some of the basic tenants of folklore. Above all it proposed – contrary to previous definitions that insisted on the necessity of oral transmission – that the familiar office photocopier provides a modern means of disseminating text based folklore.

They went on to argue that in order to study folklore we need not look to the past, to other cultures or even substratum of our own cultures. Rather instead a vibrant, rich and eminently readable tradition exists immediately before us. Indeed the ideal habitat for xeroxlore studies was the most banal of all places: the office.

While no single narrative unites all of the materials on show in this exhibition, they do speak of a certain social contract between city dwellers. As Dundes and Patger write: 

Urban people as a folk are bound together by their unhappy experiences in battling ‘the system,’ whether that system be the machinery of government, a collection agency, or the office where one works. 

In light of this, xeroxlore touches on almost every major gripe and issue likely to impact upon the urban condition: racism, sex, politics, automation, alienation, welfare, sexism, student riots, criminality, military mentality and office bureaucracy.

Faced by this imposing inventory our anonymous authors mostly recourse to a deflated sort of humor. Accordingly, xeroxlore comes across either as outright funny, occasionally sad and usually desperate; filled to the brim with a very particular sort of angsty white collar jocularity.

Read Times Literary Supplement Blog featuring Xeroxlore