I was sitting in the library this morning, when a particularly moving passage from a book I was reading caught in my throat, like an unspoken sob. I wanted to tell someone about it, maybe the person sitting next to me, but the very nature of a library means silence. At this moment, the passage I read made me think of Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger's amazing art installation, "Soul Warmer", made within the confines of the Abbey Library of St.Gall in 2005.
Steiner and Lenzlinger describe this installation as a manifestation and literalisation of emotion 'captured' in books and within the library over the years. This is exactly what I wanted this morning: to capture the emotion I felt, and to literalise it. I suppose that's why I wanted to speak to someone; in a way, I wanted to record the way I felt. I wish Steiner and Lenzlinger's project was extended into other libraries. I often wonder what books would look like if the emotion, history and ideas of the people who read them were literally inscribed on their pages. To me, that's where the meaning of a book lies: somewhere between the author's words and the reader's response.
And it has to be said: how amazing is Steiner and Lenzlinger's art? It would be fascinating to peek inside their minds. What is most spectacular about their work is not simply that it's grand in dimension and conception, but that it also seeks to probe intangible things we often take for granted.
All images copyright Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger. Click here to view more.
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