For me the most impressive artwork of the Documenta in Kassel 2012 was What dust will rise? by Michael Rakowitz. The sad litany of culture destruction and erasure.
It is said that artists are like canaries in the mine, predicting the future. Is this what awaits us? A cultural apocalypse?
Or is this just a slightly enlarged example of what Marx called the gnawing criticism of mice ? The standard fate of most cultural artifacts?
Stone fragment dropped by the Royal Air Force over Essen, Germany, 1942. British bombers released the rubble of English buildings destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain on German cities as a prelude to actual bombs.
For us it is a matter of special pride to destroy the Talmudic Library which has been known as the greatest in Poland...we threw out of the building the great Talmudic Library and carted it to market. There we set fire to the books. The fire lasted for twenty hours. The Jews of Lublin were assembled around and cried bitterly. The cries almost silenced us. Then we summoned a military band, and joyful shouts of the soldiers silenced the sounds of Jewish cries. - Frankfurter Zeitung, March 28 ,1941
Shrapnel from ammunition rounds used to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas, Afghanistan, March, 2001.
Samples of clay fragments with paint from outer layers of the western Buddha of Bamyian. Traces of red and blue - made from pulverized lapis lazuli - suggest the sangesti or c eremonial robes of the Buddha were colored.
Books damaged by fire and deemed too unimportant to restore after the bombing of the Fridericianum, 1941.
The Tironian notes contain the oldest lexicon of classical and early medieval abbreviations, a shorthand used to record the great speeches of antiquity. It was developed by Marcus Tullius Tiro, a Roman who lived in the first century B.C., and written down in Carolingian miniature in France around 800 A.D. It
survived the air raid on Kassel in the Fridericianum's vault, but the tremendous heat scorched its leather binding, charred its woorden cover, and liquified the fat in its parchments pages, gluing them together.