27 Jun MENSCHLICH. 1994.
Aachen: Thouet Verlag and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. 1994.
26.7 x 20.8cm, 980pp (approx.). Artist's book which reproduces 975 black and white appropriated photographs of mostly faces (although there are group images also) randomly assembled from the vast collection of such images the artist had collected since the 1970s. As such the near 1,000 pictures are meant to represent mankind - with no information about the subjects whatsoever. In many ways Boltanski's objective recording of such anonymous people reflects a view of history and life that has no judgement - in fact, no morality - as one does not know if the person one is looking at is villain or hero, victim or predator, alive or dead (although probably dead given the statistics of life).
This is regarded as one of Boltanski's most important artist's books although it is really a summary of all that he had done before in this realm of appropriation photography.
The book has the following tale as a sort of foreword in German:
"Der große Rabbi von Lodz lag im Sterben,
umgeben von seinen Anhängern.
Der Jüngste , Benjamin , wollte dem Sterbenden
noch eine letzte Frage stellen . Er fragte ihn : „ Was ist das Leben ?
“ Der große Rabbi antwortete : „ Das Leben!
Das Leben ist eine Quelle.“
Dieser Satz wurde von den Anwesenden
mit großer Zufriedenheit
und Respekt aufgenommen,
mit Ausnahme von Benjamin,
der erwiderte : „ Was ? Das Leben ist eine Quelle?
“ Da hörte man den großen Rabbi sagen: „ Was ?
Das Leben ist keine Quelle?
“ Das waren seine letzten Worte."
Which we translate as:
The great Rabbi of Lodz was dying
surrounded by his followers.
The youngest, Benjamin, wanted the dying man
ask one last question. He asked him, “What is life? "
The great rabbi replied:" Life!
Life is a source.“
That sentence was spoken by those in attendance
received with great satisfaction and respect,
with the exception of Benjamin, who replied, “What? Is life a source?"
Then one heard the great rabbi say:" What?
Life is not a source? “Those were his last words.
Boltanski's ambiguity to the fate or having more knowledge of the subjects of these images is reflected in that tale.
There are some issues with condition of this copy - the front cover has been bent vertically and some pages are a little badly folded internally due to poor printing but overall it is just under VG. Now scarce.