Burning the Books was an idea for an intervention that I felt compelled to make, and never thought I would repeat. It arose from personal experiences, which changed the course of my life and work (many of which have been documented on this blog); it began in 2011 in Liverpool and will end in May 2015.
I create one Book of Debts per location and invite the public to (anonymously) contribute stories – in person or online. These then form the basis of a public recital unique to each place, prior to being burned. Entries have ranged from unpaid corporate taxes, lost lives, social injustices, ecological damage, ancestral and family feuds and missed opportunities – to numerous debts of gratitude, small and large.
I invite you to contribute to this Volume VII – whether you’re a borrower or lender, past or present. What is in your/our collective book of human accounts? Money, rights, time, love, attention? Shame, regret, anger, injustice, gratitude? Who owes what to whom? Do all debts have to be repaid? How do you repay a debt that is not financial? What would you have written off, call to account or want to draw attention to?
The project has been related to in different ways: as a provocation – an imaginary form of Jubilee (found in many Holy Books) – and as a source of comfort and healing for past hurts, bordering on the spiritual. Whatever you think it is, I offer it to you as a way of opening up what this poorly understood yet powerful construct can mean, a playful way of examining your beliefs, at a personal and societal level. I hope Volume VII, as part of Urban Dialogues, creates the space to consider debt in the context of faith, morality, belief and identity and the wider purpose it may have to play in both our consciences and communities. Entries in The Book from ‘I owe everything to everyone‘ to ‘I expect nothing and I promise nothing’ reminds me that our relationship to debt is perceptual and inherently relational. So, in shifting ones relationship to it, the debt itself can change shape. As can our relationship to both the past and what is possible in the future on an individual and collective level.
Alinah Azadeh, August 2014
To contribute to The Book of Debts, VII, visit and write in The Book from September 3rd, 7pm, at Red Gallery, Rivington St, Shoreditch, London during the Navigations show (part of Urban Dialogues, details here ) or contribute via this site before 3.30pm, Sunday September 21st, when Book VII will be recited and burned at 5pm as part of the Sunday Social, which closes the exhibition.