Featured Artist

Brian Dettmer: Sculpting Vintage Media


Recently, The Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation has organized the first solo exhibition in Italy of American artist Brian Dettmer. The exhibit will be featured from July 12th to September 14th, 2014 at the Exhibition Hall of the Foundation in Cecina, Italy. “A Decade of Book Sculpture, curated by the Art Director of the Foundation, Alessandro Schiavetti, will display the best of Dettmer’s production from 2003 to 2013. Visitors will be guided through a path that will show the evolution of the artist’s poetics and his ideological development, which he conveys through actual surgical carvings that weave new connections from inside the book.” Brian Dettmer is a prolific artist who takes books and sculpts them into prolific art. He characterizes his art as visual, much like a painter approaches his canvas when he begins his work. As the pages are peeled away, he doesn’t really know what may come next. However, the end result is a breathtaking sculpture by design. “It’s really like reading in a way, I don’t know what’s coming on the next page.”

“I’de like to suggest that information is being lost. Right now we are in a pivotal moment with our relationship to books . . . “

Modern Progress “In my work Modern Progress, one of my earlier works, I basically seal up a book and carve into the front. I have no idea what is coming on the next page. It’s almost like reading with a knife. So, I can’t control everything that I’m going to come across, but I can certainly react to it. There’s a high level of chance and I’m basically removing (pages) one level at a time.” In many of his book sculptures, Brian will take and dissect blocks of words and images from different parts of the book and highlight them in layers. He describes this as a type of “concrete poetry” taking language from medical texts and bringing them to the forefront. Concrete Poetry He suggests that in this day and age of digital format, we are at a crossroads when it comes to hardcover books and other outdated media. “I’de like to suggest that information is being lost. Right now we are in a pivotal moment with our relationship to books. Nobody wants to really throw these old texts away, but then again, we don’t really know what to do with them.” Vintage books Brian will use different types of media including vintage texts, encyclopedias, medical books, VHS tapes, cassette tapes and even maps. He refers to some of his work, like VHS tapes and cassette tapes as “endangered analog media”. Here he took an old single VHS tape and cassette tapes using knives, small saws, heat-guns and video tape to reshape them into art. “I like the idea of material evolving or ‘shape shifting’ if you will. I like the idea of ‘dying media’ as a theme for many of these works.” image image In a series called “Altered States”, Brian took maps of all 50 states and carved out everything except the highways. “I looked at this like a vascular system which creates a synapsed feel that you may get when stuck in traffic.” image

He refers to some of his work, like VHS tapes and cassette tapes as “endangered analog media” . . . 

In VHS tape, he likes to combine an image with what’s on the tape. In this example of an old VHS tape of the Godfather, the video tape becomes the flowers and the rest of the tape makes up the leaves and branches. It’s ironic that the VHS tape is ‘black’ similar to the darkness expressed in the movie. However, Brian wants there to be a more expressive point to this art piece. “This is a prime example of content and form continuing to separate. When you think about film and how it used to be, the image was actually on the film. In VHS, there is now this black tape and now with DVD, it’s reflective.” This exemplifies progressive separation of content and media form as we have witnessed in the past few decades.  Media is now basically intangible in its digital form. image Brian is celebrating and exploiting this material as it looses its function. Especially when it comes to books. He is certainly suggesting the idea that information is being “lost” in these old books. “Books don’t have the monopoly that they used to have and now we are really trying to decide what to do with these books.”. As much as Brian is an artist, he still sees a place for printed books even though there is this large shift to digital media.

Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer is a New York-based artist known for his detailed and innovative sculptures with books and other forms of antiquated media. Dettmer’s work has been exhibited internationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions at galleries, museums and art centers all over the world.

**This interview was taken from website interviews on tape**

Photo Credits and Links

Brian Dettmer Official Website
Excerpts from “Video” section of artist website

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