Born Again Books

Book Sculpture by Guy LarameeWith the increasing popularity of electronic readers and e-books, the future use of hard-bound books also comes under question… French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tackles it from a decidedly philosophical — and creative — perspective, carving intricate, three-dimensional landscapes that look amazingly real up close. (TreeHugger)

Based in Montréal (only an hour and a half north of me), French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tickles the already ticklish debate over the destiny of printed books. Fusing art and anthropology Laramée carves books into sculptures which arrest the viewer not only with their intricate three dimensional beauty, but with the cascade of questions each piece compels. Why books? Why vintage books? What are the implications of destroying words and ideas in order to create romantic, usually natural scenes?

The artist statement published at Laramée’s website offers some insight.

The erosion of cultures – and of “culture” as a whole – is the theme that runs through the last 25 years of my artistic practice. Cultures arise, become obsolete, and are replaced by new ones. With the vanishing of cultures, some people are displaced and destroyed. We are currently told that the paper book is bound to die. The library, as a place, is finished. One might say: so what? Do we really believe that “new technologies” will change anything concerning our existential dilemma, our human condition? And even if we could change the content of all the books on earth, would this change anything in relation to the domination of analytical knowledge over intuitive knowledge? … My work, in 3D as well as in painting, originates from the very idea that ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation. (Guy Laramée)

As I head into a three day writing and publishing conference, Laramée’s art and ideas strike a curious, resonant chord. I’ll hear (and cheer) oracles of the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm, and I’ll learn and laugh and celebrate writing, storytelling and publishing alternatives unimaginable even a year ago. It’s thrilling to surf waves of change, especially when they expand our abilities. But optimistic publishing predictions aside, I am drawn to the questions Laramée is asking, and fascinated with the idea of an erosion of knowledge. He concludes his artist statement thus:

After 30 years of practice, the only thing I still wish my art to do is this: To project us into this thick Cloud of Unknowing. (Guy Laramée)

I look forward to his exhibition at the Galerie d’Art d’Outremont in April. Reason enough for a Montreal birthday expedition!