Are encyclopedias and dictionaries obsolete? With the entire body of human knowledge seemingly just a click away, it can feel like the print book's heyday is long gone. Where once, big sets of reference material used to fill every living room, in recent years, the field's publishers have gone online and shuttered their physical presses. With all eyes turned toward screens, will humans eventually turn away from the knowledge those books represent? Is culture and knowledge eroding?
These are questions asked by Guy Laramée, an interdisciplinary artist who creates hyper-realistic landscapes out of old books. Laramée literally carves erosion into landscapes with names like "Adieu" and "Desert of Unknowing"—pieces that ask how knowledge forms and disappears. He writes in his artist statement:
Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.
Laramée, who also does anthropologic fieldwork in places like Togo and Peru, works his travels into his massive pieces. One of his most ambitious projects, "Adieu," which involved carving an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, was geographically inspired by places such as Brazil's Aparados da Serra, Ecuador's Andes and Ethiopia's highlands, Colossal's Christopher Jobson reports.
Laramée tells Beautiful/Decay's Evan La Ruffa that he uses everything from delicate hand tools to chainsaws to achieve his final effect—one that pushes viewers to question what they know about knowledge as they marvel at his artistic skill.