If print is a dying media, you might as well destroy books in the most beautiful way possible.
Laramée has been honing this craft since 1999, when he began experimenting with using a sand blaster on books. Once he figured out what could be done with his medium choice, he decided examine what role books played in our society. On his website, his artist statement says:
Cultures emerge, become obsolete, and are replaced by new ones. With the vanishing of cultures, some people are displaced and destroyed. We are currently told that the paper book is bound to die... Now I see that our belief in progress stems from our fascination with the content of consciousness. Despite appearances, our current obsession for changing the forms in which we access culture is but a manifestation of this fascination.
He is using his art to critique to what we attach value. If we don't value the beauty of the words on the book's pages, maybe we will value it if it's tangibly displayed in front of us as a sculpture.
One thing I need to point out is that work this intricate doesn't come cheap. A CBS video from 2012 said that one of Laramée's sculptures could bring in "up to $20,000" and that number was growing, which means today they're probably worth even more than that.
Not only does this process cost a pretty penny, it's pretty time-intensive as well. In an interview with Beautiful/Decay, Laramée noted how each piece can take anywhere "from 3 days to 3 months. It all depends. Again, maybe the virtuosity impresses, but it certainly hits a mark because the works are inspired."
Laramée isn't picky about how he creates his art, using a variety of implements from chainsaw blades to brushes and hand tools, he told interviewer, Evan La Ruffa. "Each project dictates its medium."
Laramée's art isn't just limited to book carvings—he is also an accomplished anthropologist, ethno-musicologist, composer, and director. As the bio (which hasn't been updated in a bit) on his website states, "At the end of 2011 his work will have been included in 15 solo and more than 20 collective shows. Half of these have been in international exhibits."
Through all of his work, across various disciplines, Laramée is clearly fascinated with culture and how that changes and transforms with time. Things are not always what they seem, and they are not always what they were. I think he summed it up best when he told La presse (translated from French):
It's not a book at all, but it's not a true landscape either. That's sort of the theme of my work: nothing can be taken back. We try to ground our works and understandings in the material... but it all disappears.
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