Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Remix: The Dialectic of Altered Books.

Brian Dettmar's intricate and skillful sculptures explore the meaning of knowledge and our relationship with it.  He insists on the obligation to challenge orthodoxy, and the right of the individual to do so.  This makes me very happy.

Dettmer:  Perpetuity to Rymer

Dettmer's work is completely different to that of German sculptor Johannes Pfeiffer, which I wrote about recently (Weighing Words: Sculpture With Books).  Pfeiffer also articulates books as repositories of knowledge, and in his case the purpose is to critique censorship and rigidities of thinking. 

I liked the small exhibition that I saw in Turin. It conveyed, in a horribly static way, the deadness of thought control.  There is something deeply creepy about books entombed in concrete.

The Bible by Johannes Pfeiffer

Dettmer, by contrast, focuses on the other side of the intellectual coin: the dynamic potential of ideas; the opening up of thought; the importance of re-interpretation and re-integration; the development of knowledge through interaction with the material world; the evolution of meaning.

Take a look at this famous, lovely, brain-like creature:  or is it a magical helmet of knowledge? or a nifty mohican of dreams?  Anyway, it is made of a full set of encyclopedias (encycoplediae?).

The New World of Books
 All downloaded from Brian Dettmer's photostream on Flikr, under creative commons licence

How incredible is that?  Entrancing even?

Dettmer works by sealing the book or books with some kind of resin, and carefully cutting away one layer at a time, revealing images and text that are already there, putting them in new relationship to each other.  He never inserts, or moves the book's contents. What emerges is a new, or alternative, set of meanings, of knowledge.

Here is his Flickr slideshow, which is just astonishing.

And below is a video of Brian himself, setting out his ideas, and how he sees his work in relation to modern media.  He seems quite young to have achieved so much - each of his dozens (scores? hundreds?) of works must take ages to complete.

Perhaps he now has a studio of assistants, like the Dutch and Florentine humanists.

But he is a modern-day humanist.  As he says himself, his work is remix.

I will deffo be going to his New York exhibition 19 May-11 June 2011 at Kinz and Tillou, 525 W. 26th St.  It's in my calendar.  When will he next exhibit in London, I wonder?

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