Ethica in Art: Hannes Möller

The German artist Hannes Möller has a passion for books, and he is fascinated by their individual character. Since 2007, his ambitious project on libraries reconstructs lost libraries such as the collection of Eberbach Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery in Southwestern Germany, portrays old books in their fragility and uniqueness, and depicts the burnt books of the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, devasteted by a fire in 2004.

Among Möller’s works is also a a painting of the Ethica section. The section is neither lost or damaged in a significant way, but it strikes the observer by its great variety. My own project attempts to show this variety mostly on the conent level, while Möller does so visually. As he writes, every library and every collection is a unique and inspiring station on our way to reading. Colours, light, smell, dust: all these components contribute to the peculiar, sometimes mysterious character of libraries.

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Ethica – Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel. Painting by Hannes Möller

Möller’s project is fascinating and important, as it treats books and collections in their individual character. They have grown over time, and they show us different faces. This is true for the Ethica section, too, and it is a great challenge to grasp the uniqueness of the section and to see it as an asset, not a liability.

Today, we are no longer used to the individual character of books and collections. Google Books is a fantastic instrument for research, as are the numerous digital projects we find online. Still, they do not have the capacity to tell many stories. They serve as “Platonic” ideas of books, without a body, without a biography. They are lost in numerical space.

Hannes Möller’s art, however, leads us to the material dimension of reading and of books. In his paintings, books appear as physical objects, beautiful and devastating, witnesses of human creativity and destructiveness at the same time. This makes his work both very exciting and challenging.

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Ethica – Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. Pianting by Hannes Möller. Detail

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