Erik Ruin

A Threnody for the Dispossessed

Erik Ruin

A Threnody for the Dispossessed



Edition Size



Inkjet, Screenprint, USB flash drive


French Paper, Speckletone


25 × 18.5 × 1 in




Portfolio (w/ boards)

$ 8,600.00

1 in stock

View Collectors

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art

Columbia University

Herzog August Bibiothek

Stanford University

Swarthmore College

A Threnody for the Dispossessed is a sixty-foot long screen-printed accordion fold-book that impressionistically interweaves the experiences of people displaced by recent wars in Iraq and Syria, the Nazi Holocaust in Europe and, the United States’ invasions of Central American countries in the 1980s. This is a major American artwork on the intersectional legacies of war and forced migration. Images and experiences flow freely into another, the trails of tear gas morphing into the mists of limbo, the vast waves of the oceans merging into monumental mounds of corpses.

An accompanying expanded colophon includes transcripts of the testimony that inspired each image in the book, and credits all the Syrian and Iraqi artists and poets who contributed to the book’s production.
A “wailing ode”, a chorus of voices drawn from historical accounts and contemporary interviews accompanies the book, part of an original score by multi-instrumentalist Julius Masri.

 Screen-printed and hand-painted by Erik Ruin at BYO Print in Philadelphia. Assistance provided by Alice Wang, Anna Coyle, Rachel Gordon, and Mee Hae Kim. Cases constructed by Megan Gibes, Long Arrow Bindery.

A Threnody was made as part of Swarthmore College’s Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project, which brings respected American book artists, academics and, culture workers into intimate conversations and publishing collaborations with Egyptian, Iraqi, and Syrian artists, poets, and other individuals who have recently resettled to Philadelphia. Driven by questions about displacement and refuge, history and, experience, the project explores art’s capacity to build empathy and create a deeper sense of belonging. The project culminated with a series of exhibitions in 2019 at Swarthmore College in the spring, three locations in Philadelphia throughout the summer, and at Booklyn’s studio in Brooklyn, NY in the Autumn.

Major support for Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with additional support from Swarthmore College Libraries, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the William J. Cooper Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The audio accompaniment to this book is available on the accompanying flash drive.

A video of the book being paged is available here.