Since I seem to have been on an ‘art made from books’ theme this week, I thought I’d share one of the few pieces that I’ve made using books.
Burn was a small sculpture I did for an exhibition in a church in Gloucester in May 2004.
It’s a glass bottle engraved with the word ‘burn’ and it contains handmade ink that I made from the burnt and ground up ashes of a Bible. Although it sounds rather blasphemous the piece was actually about William Tyndale, who translated the Bible from Latin to English and was strangled and then burnt by the Catholic Church for his efforts.
I was trying to convey the idea that although you can burn both books and people, once an idea has been expressed you can rarely eradicate it completely – even if you burn the books the words will be rewritten and if you burn the people who wrote the words, others will pick up the pen. So to me, it’s a very hopeful and positive piece and I liked it a lot. However, it was tiny and was completely dwarfed by the space. One day I’ll do something with it and the lovely series of photos that I took of the burning Bible and the ashes. Ironically enough, I quite fancy making a book…
As a dedicated bookworm, I had a bit of moral trouble with the book burning part but it was so integral to the piece that I couldn’t not do it and I have to confess that once I got going, I took a wicked glee in the process. I was also worried that Christians might be offended that I’d burnt their holy book, but I’ve yet to get any complaints.
The following is the text I wrote for the exhibition brochure:
Glass, ink made from the ashes of a bible
“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”
“The paper burns, but the words fly away.”
Ben Joseph Akiba
The Catholic Church burnt not only Tyndaleâ€™s Bible, but also more than 1,000 people found with the forbidden text. This work is a memorial to everyone who has been killed for reading the wrong books.