The Archaeology of Memory:Books of Fire @ Galateea Contemporary Art
The installation Books of Fire is comprised of ceramic books (predominantly
terracotta) and dry clay. The idea of the project represents culture as the foundation of
civilization, symbolized by the use of fired and un-fired clay in the construction of an
archaeological site in the likeness of an archetypal library of ceramic books.
I have chosen to reference books because they are historic symbols of knowledge
and collective memory. The books from the Archaeology of Memory Series are
symbolically left unwritten to suggest the absence, forgetting and to inspire the viewer to
imagine what they may contain. Books are symbols, instruments of memory. From the
beginning of history, there has been a strong connection between words and clay, as early
forms of writing were on clay tablets.
The notion of historic time and permanence, apparent in the ceramic books,
appears in contrast with the fragility of culture and knowledge. In the historical context of
the 20th century when ideological and totalitarian systems have led to the massdestruction
of books considered reactionary, the installation brings to attention the human
need to save the past through an archaeology of memory.
The past plays an important role in my creative process. My role as an artist is to
dig through layers of history like an archaeologist in the attempt to recover the loss of
collective memory. The process of forgetting is inevitable, especially in the contemporary
times when people are concerned with the new.
Ceramics is the medium that I predominantly use because clay represents the
element that, on a metaphorical level, embodies the most dynamic qualities of life and
nature through the transformations it undergoes, from volcanic eruptions to the erosion of
mountains. The creative process of working with clay, from the making to the firing, is
alchemical in its transformational nature.
The majority of the books were fired in traditional Romanian kilns from Potigrafu
and Piscu by using wood and horse manure for combustion. The communities of potters
from Piscu and Potigrafu fell apart, hundreds of potters abandoning this craft after 1990.
It is an inspiring experience to participate in the process of reviving lost traditions.
The current exhibition at Galateea Contemporary Art (September 14 – October 13, 2016) is part of a circuit of itinerary exhibitions from the cycle The Archaeology of Memory, initiated in 2013 at West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, continued in 2015 at The Romanian Cultural Institute New York, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and NCECA Biennial, Brown University, Rhode Island in 2015; Brukenthal National Museum (2015 – 2016); the Museum of Art in Arad and The National Art Museum of Moldova, Chișinău in 2016.
The exhibition can be seen between September 14 and October 13, 2016