40 Burnt Books

ArtBooks removed from public circulation and steel brackets, dimensions dependent on installation, 2019-22

Forty burnt books are presented on custom-made steel brackets jutting out from the wall at an angle similar to lecterns or rare book displays. They represent today’s undervaluing of education, the shift from analog to digital technologies, the fraught contextualization of our histories, and the destruction of knowledge. Book banning is on the rise while public school funding in the South suffers in divided districts still in recovery after years of pandemic-restricted teaching. The tattered and charred pages are a visual representation of years of violence that are invisible but nevertheless have real consequences to our communities and our children’s futures. 40 Burnt Books also reference the advent of the internet and the reduced reliance on books to transmit knowledge, for good or ill. Our communities believe in what is presented online through the algorithms of social media and often biased sources disseminated widely. How can we believe in a single truth when there are thousands of versions from which to choose? Burning books is equivalent to censorship and a fear of spreading knowledge. One only burns or bans a book if the content is so offensive or dangerous to those in power. These books were already destined for the landfill, but now act as physical representations of censorship, historical wrongs, and ephemeral violence made real.

Originating from a 2018 salem2salem residency in Salem, Germany and expanded for the 2021 solo exhibition HOME//WORK at the Lauren Rogers Smith Museum in Laurel, MS. Selected in 2022 for the group exhibitions Faculty Exhibition 7 at the Jule Collins Smith Museum, Auburn, AL and Art of the South at Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville, TN. On display at the ROB as part of the 2023 ArtFields competition and exhibition in Lake City, SC from April 19-29, 2023.

Poetry inspired by the piece by Auburn students.