Artist Uses Books For A Sculpture That Tells A Story Of Loss, Knowledge And What it Means To Be A Human Being

Just outside the city of Aarhus in Denmark there is a hole in the ground, along the shoreline. The square shaft is covered with glass and reaches down. When one looks more carefully, he notices it is lined not with dirt or concrete, but with books! It is a subterranean library, inaccessible from the surface, with titles hidden from the eye.


This sculpture is the work of Susanna Hesselberg, a Swedish-based artist whose work, which is typically photography, explores nature, humans, and the links between them.


But sometimes, she says, a concept comes together better as a sculpture than a photograph. The title of the piece is deeply moving and emotional.

It’s called When My Father Died It Was Like a Whole Library Had Burned Down. It references a song by Laurie Anderson, and speaks to the knowledge that is forever lost along with a human being. It is an expression of bottomless loss. Hesselberg says that this is not a reflection of her personal life, but rather an exploration of the song’s line itself.


Piece was made using around 3,000 books, carefully stacked and glued together before being inserted into the ground. “No mirrors or illusions,” Hesselberg says. “Just a lot of hard work.”

“For me, the books are symbols for human knowledge and life. Every book a story, a small universe of time, space and thoughts between two book covers. To bury them like this could be like an excavation of humanity or like a tomb.” 

This artist often uses books as inspiration for her art.



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