I grew up being taught that books are precious. Whether due to text, illustration or both, the best of them possess a piece of our living memories, passed down through generations, becoming dog-eared with loving use. In the age of eBooks and threatened libraries, the intangible qualities of a bound book are becoming even more precious.
But for many of the same factors (growth of internet research and eBooks) as well as due to progress itself, there are specific books that become obsolete almost as soon as they are moved from press to shelves. Encyclopedias, Road Atlases and Medical Journals are good examples. So what, then, is to become of those weighty tomes that a generation or two ago held pride of place in every household?
Atlanta based artist Brian Dettmer has taken a creative approach to the recycling of these out of date volumes by going back to his childhood process of carving out books to create secret hiding places.
The artist first sets the book in place with glues and varnishes, and then begins a process he calls “excavation”, using tweezers, scalpels and other surgical tools he cuts away at the pages like an archeologist, without really knowing what words or images will lie ahead.
“I don’t move or add anything, so the final piece is a collaboration between the existing material and my intervention.”
From road atlas pages carved into enticing geodes, to journals of anatomy that suddenly have the same 3 dimensionality of the bodies they describe, Dettmer’s work metaphorically links the revelation of the printing press to a sculptor releasing imprisoned figures from stone.