Guest speaker turns old books into new art

Kelsey Henninger

Brian Dettmer an Atlanta based sculptore spoke last night as part of the spring design lecture series. His work mainly consits of different media such as books, cassettes, videos, records and other tangible objects. STEPHANIE DEVER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Brian Dettmer, the sculptor who uses books as his canvas, spoke at Michael Schwartz Center last night.

“I like the layering and depth of the books,” said Nathaniel Rather, fourth-year architecture major. “It’s originally meant for one purpose, and he has you read it another way.”

This Atlanta-based artist, known mostly for his “book excavation,” evolves the 2-D pages of a book into a 3-D art forms.

Andy Beals, fourth-year jewelry and metals major, commented about the first time he saw Dettmer’s work.

“It reminded me of people hollowing out books to hide things,” Beals said.

Dettmer seals the edges of the publications then he whittles through the cover, and then each page in order using intricate tools, such as scalpels and tweezers. This allows the layers to reveal themselves to him.

“What’s exciting for me is I have no idea what’s on the next page and I have to respond to that,” Dettmer said in his lecture.

He never moves or adds anything, so every piece is in its original place in the book.

Besides books, Dettmer used other media like maps, cassettes and video tapes. He molded human skeletons and animal skulls out of Led Zeppelin, M”tley Crüe and R.E.M. cassette tapes.

The skeletons have humor behind their creation. The shell of the tapes reproduce the skeleton, and the idea relates to cassette tapes being extinct.

“Melting plastic silverware is a rainy day thing,” Beals said. “Melting cassette tapes is real art.”

Dettmer feels novels are reasonable books because no one wants to read 300 pages online. But he said other books, like reference books, are evaporating so he doesn’t feel guilty using them for his work.

The 2008 American Institute of Architecture Students spring design lecture series brought Dettmer to Kent to attract students outside the architecture field.

Contact College of Architecture and Interior Design reporter Kelsey Henninger at [email protected].