What to do with 4,000 copies of the "White Man's Bible", "Racial Holy War" and other rightwing supremacist books? A human rights centre in the US state of Montana managed to find a solution to the dilemma - give away the hoard of titles to artists.
In 2003 the Montana Human Rights Network received a call from a disaffected member of the Creativity Movement, a notorious ethnic supremacist group that had created its own ‘whites-only' religion. The group, originally known as the World Church of the Creator in the 1970s, had settled in Montana because they considered it a ‘white state'.
In return for 4,000 hateful books, the man was asking for 300 dollars, the money he needed to leave the state. Happy to take the books out of circulation, the human rights centre agreed.
After several years with the books piled up at the organisation's headquarters, they decided to hand them over to artists eager to work with hateful material. The result is the exhibition "Speaking volumes: Transforming hate", currently touring art museums across Montana.
“White Man’s Bible” and other books, before their transformation. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Kristin Casaletto. “CondemNation”. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
“As an artist, the idea of getting my hands on these hate-filled objects and messing them up was a really empowering experience”
Cathy Weber is an artist living in Dillon (Montana) who helped organise the exhibition. Her "Racial Holy War" cut-out is one of the works included.
It would be easier to burn them, but it would be wrong. Muzzling doesn't work. The cultural metaphor of burning books relates directly to censorship.
As an artist, the idea of getting my hands on these hideous, hate-filled objects and messing them up was a really empowering experience. The idea was to transform them into a message of justice.
Some artists had a physical, instinctive response to the books. One artist actually left them on her porch for several days until she could bear to take them inside.
There are very different transformations of the book. One artist, Jane Wagoner Deshner, knitted little hats for them: gentle, loving objects of warmth that defused them with a message contrary to that of the books. Another one, Billie Lynn, washed and washed the paper into pulp, until the message and the impact were gone. Jean Grosser took pictures of her immediate family who died at the hands of Nazis in concentration camps and made these exquisite shrines papered with fragments of the books. To think that the foundation of these religious shrines are the words from these books sends shrills down my spine."
Lei Curtis. “Superior”. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Jean Grosser. “Memorials”. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Tom Foolery. “Fool school”. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Ariana Boussard-Reifel & Dana Boussard. “Between the lines”. Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Marc Morris & Shelley Murney. "Veil of hate". Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Billie Lynn. "Washing hate". Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.
Cathy Weber. "Racial Holy War". Photo courtesy of Katie Knight.