witness, elegy of forgetting, 2014, mixed media installation

This project posits the oak gall wasp nest as silent witness and participant in the writing and recording of history, and of the ongoing destruction of libraries in war and conflict. Oak galls were the source for one of history's most common inks, from ancient times up to the 20th century, used in the Dead Sea Scrolls, all European manuscripts before the printing press, the Declaration of Independence, and Hebrew Torah, which is still written with oak gall ink.

The 16' scroll catalogues my research of every library recorded as destroyed or severely damaged in human conflict, going back to the Library of Alexandria up to early 2014. Ink, made from oak galls, drips from the funnel onto the scroll, "re-writing" a new history. Drawings, on calf-skin vellum prepared for Torah, explore the oak gall, its scientific properties, and recipe for ink. Magnifiers depict photographic images of actual library destruction. Libraries are still being destroyed, sometimes as collateral damage, sometimes in a deliberate attempt to rupture a culture. This is part of an expanded project using materiality as a lens through which to view larger stories.

The material of our world reveals how we are not separate from nature, culture, and history, but embedded actively and continually within it.

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