witness, elegy of forgetting, 2014, mixed media installation. Oak gall wasp nests, handmade oak gall ink, glass separator, torah parchment, print on paper, linen tester magnifiers, digital photographs, wire, insect pins
This project posits the oak gall wasp nest, source for one of history's most common inks, 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 used for ink from ancient times up to the 20th century, 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, starting with the Library of Alexandria up to the date of this project in 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 the recipe for ink. Magnifiers depict photographic images of library destruction. The list grows, as libraries are still being targeted, sometimes 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.