The Fussy Eye: Putting the Knife to the Library

What to do with old books.

Anyone who's had to clear out a family estate will know the leaden, stomach-sinking horror of the library. What in God's name are we going to do with all these old books? In the age of Amazon and Kindle, you can't even give away those heavy hardcover dictionaries, medical textbooks, and encyclopedias. There is no market on Craigslist or eBay. So they're all headed . . . to the landfill? It's so sad. And in this way, centuries of human knowledge—at least that stored in printed form—are churned back into the Earth. Yet French-Canadian artist Guy Laramée takes a different approach to unwanted old tomes. In the miniature landscapes of his sculptural series Mountains, he bores and excavates into the leather jackets and musty pages, carving terrestrial dioramas and fanciful scenes into these library castoffs. Most sit on heavy display stands, like the reference tables that once supported gilt-edged atlases and the unabridged OED. Squinting at the undulating hills, little caverns, and tiny footbridges (as if in Shangri-La?), worlds are reduced to microcosm, like a terrarium or a ship in a bottle. Books are vessels after all, containers of information. The medium is the same, only Laramée has transformed these factual repositories into fictive tableaux. 

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