IN THE SCRIPTORIUM
Cazenovia College Art Gallery, Cazenovia, New York, 2014
Curated by Jen Pepper
In the Middle Ages a Scriptorium was the place in a monastery where ancient philosophical and religious texts were copied and illuminated, and where new texts were written. The Scriptorium was a combined publishing house, library and research center. The Scriptorium can be understood today as a real or a metaphorical place where a writer, or an artist, collects material and does research and writing.
For the exhibition, “In the Scriptorium,” Lasse Antonsen is presenting work that directly or indirectly incorporate and reference books and text. Antonsen works with found objects that he
recontextualizes by juxtaposing them to other objects and by presenting them as museum or art objects.
An early work, “Letters,” from 1994 is based on a juxtaposition of pages from an adult literacy and handwriting book with dead moths. A recent work, “Not Quite Red,” from 2013, features pages of photographs from a book published in Prague in 1982, a book celebrating official Communist artists, featuring them in their studio. Antonsen has “blackened” their eyes with red strips taken from the endpapers of the book.
For Antonsen, art is about the individual, and the influence of culture and politics. Much of the work on display reference philosophy and the philosopher’s role in society. Antonsen uses text by the the German philosophers Husserl on the color red. He has also created several works that reference the life of Husserl’s student, the philosopher Heidegger. Related to this work, which is about the philosopher’s role in society, is a group of works, “Geöffnet,” also from 1994, that feature envelopes inspected and censured by the Nazis before and during WWII. The envelopes are juxtaposed with cicadas, a gesture that for Antonsen references cycles of Fascism.
Although Antonsen’s work is conceptual, he pays great attention to theatricality, and in presentation relies extensively on the enigmatic nature of objects and their evocative beauty.
Septuagint, 18th century engraving
The Latin word, Septuaginta, means seventy. The title refers to a legendary story according to which seventy or seventy-two Jewish scholars were asked by the Greek King of Egypt Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283 BC to 246 BC) to translate the Torah from Biblical Hebrew into Greek, for inclusion in the Library of Alexandria.
A version of the legend is found in the Tractate Megillah of the Babylonian Talmud:
“King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one's room and said: "Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher. God put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did.”
Pre-Christian Jews considered the Septuagint on equal standing with the Hebrew Masoretic text. The Early Christian Church used the Greek texts since Greek was a lingua franca of the Roman Empire at the time, and the language of the Greco-Roman Church.
It was not until the time of Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) that the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures came to be called by the Latin term Septuaginta.
This might be the earliest version of the Scriptorium, a room where a scholar writes, does research, and translates.