Books: How Old Books Become New Art

Fiction–well, good fiction–is timeless. People don’t mind being transported back and forth through time when they pick up a novel. Non-fiction… well, it’s not quite so easy. Especially for books like medical books, encyclopedias, and atlases. There are thousands of these now dated books in the world serving no purpose anymore unless you’re a researcher looking to see how misguided people were on a particular topic however many years ago. Useless. Or, they used to be until Brian Dettmer got his hands on them.

I stumbled across the genius that is Brian Dettmer when a friend of mine posted a link to this article on Facebook. They explain that Brian takes outdated and “useless” illustrated reference books and turns them into amazing works of art using only sealants, tweazers, knives, and surgical tools. The artist himself has this to say about his work:

In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception.

 The beauty of the finished products is astonishing. It’s innovative, creative, and absolutely incredible. I want his work displayed all over my house just so I can stare at it and try to figure out how in the world he was able to process information this way.

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