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    David Maisel: Library of Dust

Art: Canisters of human remains photographed by photographer David Maisel

Posted by Liv Siddall,

When David Maisel was visiting an old, disused psychiatric hospital, he was beckoned into a small room by a prisoner who had been brought in from the local jail to clean up the building, who had gotten to know the building well. The prisoner referred to the room as The Library of Dust and David was soon to discover that it was crammed floor-to-ceiling with nearly 4000 identical copper tins containing the ashes of patients who had died in the hospital from the 1880s to the 1970s. Respectfully, David took a selection of the canisters and photographed them in turn, segregating them and focusing on the incredible, luminous patterns that had now formed on the decaying copper.

“The room housing these canisters is an attempt at order, categorisation and rationality to be imposed upon randomness, chaos, and the irrational.” Says David, “The canisters, however, insistently and continually change their form over time; they are chemical and alchemical sites of transformation, both organic and mineralogical, living and dead. The Library of Dust describes this labyrinth, and in doing so, gives form to the forgotten.” You can see an interview with David about the project over here.

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She also runs our London listings site This At There, and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.