Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bombed Books

For his installation at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel this summer, Michael Rakowitz has included a number of very old books damaged when the British bombed Kassel during World War II. Elsewhere in the same room of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum he has placed artifacts of other recent cataclysms – shards and fragments seemingly intended as a jumbled miscellaneous testament to the violence inflicted by people on objects.  

Sharpie cursive caption (above) written on the vitrine itself reads: Books damaged by fire and deemed too unimportant to restore after the bombing of the Fridericianum, 1941. 

My own critical senses as a librarian start to buzz like a bee in a bottle on the rare occasions when I see some component of the Art World even so much as acknowledging the existence of the Book World. Often enough what I find myself perceiving is ignorant or cynical exploitation on the part of the artist, as I claimed back in April to be seeing here. But Rakowitz redeems  his project through context, it seems to me, showcasing his disfigured veterans in the same building where their wounds were inflicted seventy years ago. 

Image source is here