Libros Perdidos (Lost Books), 2010

What is lost when a library burns?

During the colonization of Mesoamerica, Spanish conquistadors burned possibly thousands of Mayan, Aztec, and other indigenous codices as heretical, in an attempt to begin Christian conversions. Only three Mayan and nineteen Zapotec books survived; flames consumed the entirety of the Aztec library. It is impossible to conceive of what knowledge was lost in this and countless other bibliocausts.

Today, there are those such as Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn the Qu’ran on September 11; iconoclasts that continually seek to destroy that which is outside of their culture and backgrounds. No one destroys something that is considered “theirs,” only what can be labeled as Other. The Other is perceived as inherently wrong and therefore its destruction is acceptable, even encouraged by some.

In the age of mechanical reproduction and the Internet, such burnings do little to eliminate the message contained in works produced in multiples and online. However, their destruction continues to send a powerful message, and suggests that the value of printed matter is still held dear by our culture. Libros Perdidos (Lost Books) evokes such book burnings, both past and contemporary. By presenting 100 burned handmade books, it decries the loss of historical knowledge and the lack of understanding that still pervades our way of life, and hopes that it will encourage viewers to use their blank pages as a visual space to contemplate their own complicity in societal ignorance.

Click on any image below to enlarge and open a slideshow.