'Diabolus in Vitro'
curated by James Putnam
Salon Vert, London
October 23- December 1, 2012
A book is not an isolated being:it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships - Jorge Luis Borges (Labyrinths,1964)
Growing up surrounded by a vast library accumulated by his mother it is not surprising that Antonio Riello developed a strong relationship with books. Although he became an obsessive and possessive bibliophile, he subsequently decided to combine his relationship with books and his artistic practice by acting out a sacrificial ritual.This involved burning his most treasured books and encapsulating their ashes within the stems of Venetian glass goblets. Each glass is labelled with name of the book that correspons with the ashes, its author, when it was first published and when and where it was burned. Entitled 'Ashes to Ashes' this ongoing project was begun in 2010 and when installed at Salon Vert in 2013 comprised 100 goblets.
Besides having a purely aesthetic appeal, Riello's installation is conceptually profound in that it symbolizes the notion that books are becoming relics of the past with the growth of eBooks in our technologically reliant future. The intentional 'death' of the physical book and its replacement by a virtual digital version has often been referred to as a new form of book burning. The historical tradition of book burning, also called 'biblioclasm' or 'libricide' involved destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material to suppress or censor 'heretical' religious and political doctrines. Like memento Mori, Riello's glass reliquaries express the notion of the transient mortality of books as material objects yet at the same time the immortality of their words.