i’ve been asked a number of times,

“what made you do this?” to which i reply with a pause. why do we do anything? why do we make, why do we love, despite it all?

the reading room is a small offering of knowledge and space to the community. communal third places which exist outside commerce are rare - with high and rapidly increasing rent, minimal public art resources, and a need for each person to work too hard for survival in honolulu, the act of simple, undirected joy is hard to come by.

the reading room is an extension of my studio art practice. rather than a single image or narrative reflected, i aim to create a mirror in which we find time to compassionately be with ourselves. by creating a space outside of commerce, the reading room simply asks you to “be”. how do you interact with an environment outside of capitalism? how do you understand your own dreams and desires outside of the framework of grinding to survive capitalism?

skateboarding and diy art culture has informed my interactions with the world. artists and skaters share a similar philosophy when approaching space: they each see space for the potential it has, rather than the way it already is. for these two subcultures, to accept the  status quo is to accept defeat. friendships also operate differently within these two social spaces. i have seen skateboarding attract folks from the expansive spectrum of humanity - addicts, recovering addicts, drop-outs, phd students, folks on welfare, kids driving their parent’s mercedes, naive middle schoolers, and every other kind of person in between. this diversity forces the community to, without realizing, adapt to difference quickly. it isn’t without conflict, but what emerges is a culture of understanding + compromise.

artists are also members of the fringe, often operating outside of the typical 9-5 formula. many lgbtqia+ folks find their homes and chosen families in art, deviating from constructed notions of  success and happiness. rather, they define these things for themselves. you must put a name to what brings you joy, and additionally, what brings you harm. in defining these two things, artists dream and construct their own garden to nurture their creative practices.

i remember a living room i shared with my roommate in baltimore: cheap rent, big space, and uncompromising, flooding sunlight. all of our memories were framed by yellow walls, an unusual choice for rental properties. we often sat together in the afternoons, letting the sun set and rest in our space before turning on artificial lights for the evening. during these moments, we flipped through our books and printed matter, savoring images and text with our tea. even with the leak in our ceiling, these are moments i remember fondly.

even before my yellow walled row home apartment, my treasured memories have three major components: books, colors, + parallel play. parallel play is the act of people playing with the same materials individually and with minimal direct engagement, rather than directly conversing and interacting with the materials in the same exact way. parallel play gives children space to observe each other’s similarities and differences in nuanced ways, outside of the “right” and “wrong” binary.

parallel play is constantly happening in art and skateboarding. the two activities are not typically ‘team sports’, but rather, groups of people walking in tandem towards a similar goal. we all think differently, approaching material and decision making in our own individualized methods. this can be applied to life - there is no binary “right” or “wrong” way to do it. we simply all forge our own way.

the reading room is a space situated between our constrictive constructed world and the comfort of our own personal spaces. neither store or living room, the reading room beckons you to re-think the ways we interact with space and each other. the only ‘rules’ of the space are written out on the library cards, stating,

“in exchange for access to books + materials, i agree to respect the space and my community members. i also pledge to share any knowledge and skills i have acquired in the space with others.” so come in, come play. 
thoughts on the reading room, ayaka takao,  october 2023