Book of Names
The Book of Names
Chath pierSath, 2018
(4 3/4 in length x 7 5/8 in width)
Acrylic on paper, collage over a Norwegian Tour Guide Booklet
Priced at $1200
The Book of Names (4 3/4 in length x 7 5/8 in width) is painted with Acrylic over a Norwegian tourist guide booklet. It’s one of the first three in a series of 50 art books Chath is set out to produce in his remaining lifetime. The original Book of Names was lost in Phnom Penh. He had produced the first three in three years: The Book of Names, The Book of Love and The Book of Numbers. The Book of Names was part of an exhibition called Futurographies. When he took the book back after the exhibition, he lost it so he painted this recent one, right around 2018, when he visited a friend in Oslo.
There are 70 pages, counting cover to back, including a fold up page of the city’s map. On the cover is a portrait of the traveler who goes in search of his past in realities not his own. He doesn’t or can’t belong in these realities. They’re someone else’s life. Nevertheless, the traveler enjoys visiting them. He takes pleasure in now wherever they are, looking, taking in the possibilities of his future unstuck to his past.
In the past, he belonged to a people and a place long ago who had lost their names and their, but brief existence. Therefore, he tries to reclaim it for them. The country and people he once knew are gone, but their spirits are trapped as wandering souls without a name. They live in the air he breathes, in the evidence he finds in genocidal museums and killing fields. The past is full of death. The Holocaust. Bosnia and Rwanda. Oslo had once been touched by human war and violence. This city of clean streets, shops and restaurants. A city of running trains on schedule. In the cold of the whitest of snow, the mist flared out of his lungs, as he stood watching the ships or the far away ferries leaving dock. He thinks of those lost names, millions of them, now inhabit his pages.
He wants the book to reclaim the names of lost souls so young people won’t forget them so they won’t repeat the history he had lived. It’s a visual documentation of loss.
Set like a family album, the pages flip to each individual who might have had a life he now has, as a free person, traveling and enjoying life to its fullest. The viewer assumes the role of an interpreter, who is what and to whom do they have significance, if at all?
It’s a kind of visual diary that gives faces to the dead, the unheard, unseen. Their physical presence returned to earth, leaving heavy scars and wounds on the living.
Turn to page five is a portrait of a woman. Is this woman his mother? Page seven and eight, are they his siblings? Further down, mug shots of individuals that resembles the torture prison, Tuol Sleng, in Phnom Penh. They can also be photos of students, upon registering for school, they are asked to take an identification photo.
Enter the book. The invitation is open. Name reclamation is free.