What do you think about – when you think about debt?
Burning the Books is a live, touring project using metaphor and narrative to explore the deep moral power that debt seems to exert on individuals and society in general. It is one artistic approach to narrating the socio-economic crisis at a human level. Acting as confessor, scribe and collector, the artist produces one Book of Debts per location, (currently at Volume VIII) carried through a range of public spaces, venues and communities – and open online – inviting the public to contribute debt stories of any kind, whether financial emotional, social, political, ecological or metaphysical. At the end of each residency the Book, full of stories, comments, reflections, is recited aloud and burned in an imaginary writing off of everything owed.
Raising questions around accountability, social justice, equality, conflict, conscience and forgiveness, the project offers a moment to reflect on and engage in a broader dialogue about debt than the one on offer in mainstream media. It questions stigmas and opens up the relationship between financial debt and other less measurable forms such as emotional, psychic, ecological and social debt.
Partners & Credits
Artist / Servant of The Book: Alinah Azadeh
Tour producer: Elizabeth Lynch. (R+D Producer: Andrew Mitchelson)
Firekeeper: Lex Titterington
Digital: The Swarm (sound: David Thomas)
Hosting partners 2014 : Imperial War Museum North (Asia Triennial Manchester), Fabrica Gallery (Brighton), Future Dreaming (Lewes) Jubilee Debt Campaign (Life Before Debt Conference, SOAS), Duckie @ Royal Vauxhall Tavern (London), Birmingham Library and Cathedral. (2013: Fierce Festival, Blank Studios, Portslade, Institute of Social Psychology, LSE)
Mentor: Ju Row Farr of Blast Theory
Photos: Mark Loudoun (Liverpool), courtesy Giving into Gift. Sogand Bahram (Portslade), Lilian Simonsson (Lewes), Cristina Pedreira (Urban Dialogues), Joel Chester Fildes (Imperial War Museum/Asia Triennial Manchester 2014)
Funded by: Arts Council England (GFA / National Touring), Serve-All Trust and hosting partners
Links and Press
Guardian article on artists experience of debt
Alinah talking about the project on vimeo ( 3 mins)
Burning the Books Vol II, Portslade – film
Burning the Books R+D blog on Artists Talking
Sacred Economics – Charles Eisenstein
Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth – Margaret Atwood
Debt: The First 5000 Years – David Graeber Strike debt, Rolling Jubilee and Jubilee Debt Campaign
The Heretic’s Guide to the Future of Finance
New Economics Foundation