Guy Laramee Turns Encyclopedias Into Intricate Mountainscapes Using Just A Knife
The sculptor talked to The Creators Project about why he rejects 3D printing and doesn't own a cellphone
by Zach Sokol
31 December 2013, 6:18pm
Montreal-based artist, Guy Laramee, has made a timely and relevant sculptural project as we jump into 2014--figuratively and literally the future. In tune with films like Her and books like Dave Eggers' A Hologram For The King, Laramee's recent project, Adieu, questions our relationship to technology and the natural versus digital worlds, as he takes real encyclopedias--massive, tangible editions that categorize every bit of nature--and carves them using a knife so they appear as mountain ranges.
Whereas many modern sculptors favor 3D printing or laser-carving devices, Laramee only uses standard manual tools, again highlighting the bigger-picture idea that tangible objects (such as print literature) and nature go hand-in-hand. This is impressive as hell, as his final product is hyper-intricate and looks like it was conceptualized to perfection using a computer first. To Laramee, a computer would be distancing to his artistic goals and a cop-out, even.
Many design sites have posted images and videos of Laramee's work, but the artist spoke with The Creators Project to give us an inside scope into how he physically makes his immaculate sculptures. Not only does he reject technology in his creative process, but the man doesn't even own a cell phone. See our interview with him below, including a written poem that correlates with Adieu.
The Creators Project: How exactly do you go about creating the mountainscapes for Adieu? Do you use knives, scalpels, lasers, or any other technology?
Guy Laramee: No laser or any high tech. Just standards power tools used in sculpture. Mainly a big flexible shaft rotary carver (Dremmel type) with various carbide and diamond burs. I also use standard manual tools, steel brushes, rasping tools, etc.
Can you tell me about the process behind creating these works? Do you draw a model first, or use a computer graphics system to visualize your idea before carving into the books? How many books do you go through before having a finished work?
No computer whatsoever. I had a gross idea of the main slope but after cutting that out, it was just a big and fearful art adventure as any other. I succeed in most of my projects but failure (at a rate of 25%) is common. When there is too much preconceived ideas or too much "I," the work ends up in the trash bin.
What mountain rages inspired Adieu? I read that you've worked with terrain in Peru, Brazil and Ecuador?
It's a combination, but definitely the inspiration was South American. I would say a mix of Aparatos da Serra (Brazil) and the slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes--not to mention a feeling of the Ethiopian plateaux.
What about mountain ranges appeals to you from a sculptor's perspective? Why did you pick this type of environmental terrain, as compared to, say, a desert or ocean reef?
Mountains elevate my spirit, that was always the case. I don't know why, but I'm not the only one in that case. That's not to say that I might not end up doing something like Badlands, or grasslands, but I guess mountains will always have my preference. I'd like to say it has to do with the spiritual, but then, even the Romantics who were champions of the spiritual in art, even someone like Friedrich used the sea as a metaphor of the unknowable. So...
Will you ever use 3D printing to help your creative process? I know you've made 3D adaptations before for your Meeresstrand I'm Nebel piece.
NEVER!!! I'm against it. I find this a pure hacking from the industry. Sorry to be so upfront, but let's get real! What you end up doing with these machines is always tinted by the softwares that drives it. You have to fit your project into the software, so you end up "designing" your piece instead of being informed by it.
There is a boundary between design and art and it lies exactly there: in art, you don't want to know where you're going. If you happen to know before hand, then you can be sure the baby is going to be dead at birth.
This may sound a bit too categorical and even dogmatic to certain ears, but we have to face the fact, someday, that artists work outside the mindframe used and promoted in the industry.
Look what happened to music: everybody sounds the same, word musics were killed in the process, everybody uses the equal temperament without even thinking about it. Sad, really.
Do you use a Kindle or iPad? What are your thoughts about such technology?
Kindle I tried this summer. It's nice to travel with, but I'm not a big fan. There is something in the mnemonics that is lost, something about the lateral possibilities of the book that is missed. It's just another black box, and I'd rather carve it than use it...(but I won't there might be poisonous cadmiums in there...)
Ipad... Will I surprise you if I tell you that I don't even have a cell phone? And do not plan to buy one? Why nobody sees that these things have made zombies of us? Well of course not the thing in themselves, WE made them. But can't we be more critical about this self hypnosis in which we want to burry ourselves? Can't we see that that dark side of the mind that want's to forget about the existential pain of living by lulling itself in its own content?
Sorry about that... amen.
What upcoming work do you have?
I'm working on this project Adieu, adding more pieces to it, because I feel it is important to acknowledge everything we're losing in the process of "developing" the world.
Here is a text Laramee wrote a couple of years ago, along with another text about ADIEU:
We have sacrificed everything.
We have sacrificed cultures for progress.
We have sacrificed species to house our children.
We have sacrificed the landscape in order to possess it.
We have sacrificed mystery for a formula, beauty for ideas,
Liberty for security.
We have sacrificed “Us” for “Me”.
We have left traces of ourselves everywhere,
And we walk on towards the ultimate sacrifice:
Drowning in our own image.
None of that is very important, Because in the immolation, we will have a glimpse of our destiny:
We are going to sacrifice everything,
We are going to sacrifice music in order to hear silence,
We are going to sacrifice color in order to enter the picture,
We are going to sacrifice words in order to find presence again.
We are going to sacrifice innovation in order to find the origin again.
And we will sacrifice “Me” in order for us to return home.
Beyond what we will have lost,
Is what we can never possess.
We can never HAVE what we ARE.
The paper encyclopedia is gone.
Knowledge as we knew it is dead.
Within the debris left by our greed for facts,
Will arise either:
A dark age of opinions
The light of pure presence.
In either cases,
Something will be mourned.