Escaping the Embers

The deliberate demolition of books, libraries, schools, bookshops, publishing houses, archives to me is unpardonable. The loss of knowledge and cultural heritage thereof cannot easily be made up with. Much will be lost past recovery.

People need free access to all sorts of knowledge to become educated. It is education that will give us the competence and strength to face the tasks future will impose upon us. It is education that provides an insight and enables us to realise and make up our mind and come to a decision. But what is much more important: education will guide us towards a world of humanity, it will teach us to respect each other – no matter which culture or religion we were born in or brought up with. And to develop into an educated person, we’ll need books and libraries and archives and bookshops and schools and universities – and everybody has to be given access to all of them.

The print: “Escaping the Embers”
Rising from the embers of the burnt down libraries of the world two pairs of scribbled pages, like a butterfly’s wings, take flight in a flurry of ashes. Handwritten on those pages are the fundamental ideas of mankind, the essentials of wisdom, believes and knowledge. The butterfly carries them as if they were its precious eggs. In butterflies the eggs will become caterpillars, which develop into cocoons and further into new butterflies. With written ideas it is similar: they are laid into their readers’ minds to hatch into thoughts, grow, cocoon and eventually hatch as new beautiful knowledge – be it as poems or novels, scientific work or philosophical wisdom – and new books in the end.

Nothing will be lost. Arson cannot win. And with the flap of its wings this very special butterfly will change the course of things in this world eventually. Over and over again if need be.

Prior to printing I painted the sheets individually in the colours of fire and ashes, the paint prepared from soil pigments. On the bottom, in the ashes, I put numbers and letters, printed from metal type. These are the astronomical coordinates of 33 libraries that have been burnt down over the centuries in our world, from Alexandria in 391BC to Tripoli in 2014, marking places where wisdom and cultural heritage have been destroyed deliberately. Butterflies are fragile and vulnerable, but with their swaying flight they escape risks just by following their nature. A butterfly seems to be absent at times, but some of its lives’s stages might be present without us being aware of it. Also, the butterfly motive refers to the butterfly effect as known in chaos theory: Small differences, like the beat of a butterfly’s wing, may result in an overall big difference in the course of things. The pattern on the butterfly’s wings is like handwriting, the characters resembling the alphabets or scripts used in the world: Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, Asian …

The deliberate demolition of books, libraries, schools, bookshops, publishing houses, archives to me is unpardonable. The loss of knowledge and cultural heritage thereof cannot easily be made up with. Much will be lost past recovery. But people need free access to all sorts of knowledge to become educated. It is education that will give us the competence and strength to face the tasks future will impose upon us. It is education that provides an insight and enables us to realise and make up our mind and come to a decision. But what is much more important: education is, if a long, still the only way that can lead us towards a world of humanity, respecting and understanding each other – no matter which culture or religion we were born in or brought up with. And to develop into an educated person, we’ll need books and libraries and archives and bookshops and schools and universities – and everybody has to be given access to all of them.

The print “Escaping the Embers” is my contribution to the al-Mutanabbi Printmaking project „Absence and Presence: A Printmaking Response to the Bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street“. My personal dead line to hand in my five prints for the „Absence & Presence“ project was October 11th in 2014. On October 10th Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize-for her fight for the right to be allowed to go to school and study and become educated.