matthew kaney

Self-Burning Book

Hand-bound book, electronics, match. Digital photo prints. 2012

Self-Burning Book offers a meditation on the current relationship between technology and information. As we increasingly move our content to convenient online storage, we expose ourselves to the risks of having this data on remote servers isolated from our immediate control. Legal actions, business decisions and infrastructure failures can all threaten the viability of our digital "property." To explore the sinister implications of this state of affairs, I automated a much older form of censorship—book burning. A tab in the book’s spine, when pulled, activated a mechanism that ignited a match built into the book, incinerating its contents.

I built this project as the final project for my Book Arts class, igniting it during the final critique. Although the wind momentarily extinguished the book (requiring a back-up lighter), the book burning otherwise went off without a hitch. It was exhibited in the OU School of Art's 99th Student Show, where it won the Norman Arts Council Award.