Brian Dettmer Carves Books
August 31, 2007 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Brian Dettmer is an artist/surgeon who carves books into intricate, astonishing & precise new pieces of art.
posted by jonson (35 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Found via.
posted by jonson at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know whether to be intrigued or horrified. Interesting concept, very good execution, but man, those are books he's slicing up.

/vivid childhood memories of stern librarians promising hellfire for cracked spines and turned down corners
posted by Zinger at 10:16 AM on August 31, 2007

I saw this a week ago and thought of posting it, but the idea of what he's doing to these books really does disturb me. Yes I know I have a problem.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:22 AM on August 31, 2007

posted by jacquilynne at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2007

Okay. That stuff's just plain cool.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:26 AM on August 31, 2007

If I could be assured that he was only cutting up, say, Dan Brown novels or something, I would appreciate this.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

You know, I don't quite understand the 'OMG! Ruining books' reaction, whether to people writing marginalia or making art. I like and value books, but assuming he's not cutting up a Shakespeare first folio, or something slightly less rare but old and out of print, well, who cares?

I've held some lovely books in my time, and admired the bindings and the cloth covers and the artistry of the package--I even fell in love with the paper they used in the A format bindings of Harry Potter paperbacks in Canada (since replaced with much less interesting paper for the larger, later books). But the real value of books is in the words and images they contain. And those can be reprinted without devaluing the original.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, that's amazing.

I'm not sure what the problem is with doing this. I love books and think of them and treat them pretty reverently, but they're almost all mass produced objects. Dettmer is creating unique artworks from those mass produced things, and, since he's using just one of the many copies of any given book, isn't restricting anyone else's ability to read the title in question.
posted by OmieWise at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2007

Pretty sweet. Is he painting on the surface he's creating within the book, or are the colors and pictures illustrations saved/carved out from pages within?
Dammit, jonson, you've gotta stop giving away those vias.
posted by carsonb at 10:45 AM on August 31, 2007

Weird stuff, for sure.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:49 AM on August 31, 2007

as a librarian, I'm also disturbed by the destruction of books...on the other hand, we weed out books all the time...most people would be surprised what goes out the backdoor to the trashcan. Anyone who creats like this guy, should have his medium.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2007

beautiful stuff.
I could see some knucklehead trying to sue him for some copyright violation.
posted by malaprohibita at 11:04 AM on August 31, 2007

Dammit, jonson, you've gotta stop giving away those vias.

You're probably only kidding, but seriously, 99% of the stuff I link to here comes from like five sources (NotCot, Bifurcated Rivets,, and a couple others). Pretty soon anyone who likes the things I like will have already seen them, and then how will I feed my insatiable hunger for favorites???
posted by jonson at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2007 [4 favorites]

Pretty cool. I don't cringe at all that he's carving up books. He's not borrowing them from the library and returning them mangled. He doesn't have a night time career of robbing museums of human history for priceless manuscripts. Books are mass produced, even hard covers are for the most part only in the 10's of dollars.

Actually, the last time I cringed with regards to books was talking with my sister. Intelligent and bright, very artistic... hasn't read a book in 15 years other than a couple of parenting books.
posted by substrate at 11:49 AM on August 31, 2007

These are beautiful. I'm not worried about the books. It's not like he's shitting on them; he's making new representations of their contents.
posted by blacklite at 11:49 AM on August 31, 2007

I saw an exhibit of his work at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago this spring, and I really enjoyed it, especially the skeleton made of melted cassette tapes. <--Flickr self-link

Something tells me that the melting of Cheap Trick cassettes doesn't elicit the same outrage as the carving of books.
posted by bluishorange at 11:59 AM on August 31, 2007

I remember times I used to be appalled at the idea of throwing out/recycling books...even terrible ones. It was actually a librarian friend that helped me see things differently, talking about 'weeding out' the old outdated books to keep the library more relevant and healthy. I think we ascribe some kind of sacredness to them, which is interesting... i'm not totally sure why.

well, in any case, beautiful art. Also, I imagine most people won't be as offended by his skull made of what seems to be old heavy metal audiotapes.
posted by troubles at 12:05 PM on August 31, 2007

ah, there i go being an echo
posted by troubles at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2007

They ruined perfectly good trees to make the perfectly good books this guy ruined to make his perfectly good art.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:41 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Great post! and a totally bitchin' link!
posted by HappyHippo at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2007

I realize it's irrational, but to me books are important, especially hardcover ones. Even though it's just one of many copies, I've been deeply conditioned to believe that every single one is a treasure, to be loved and respected.... especially the old ones, as many of these probably are, judging from what I can see of the bindings.

This guy's art is wonderful, but I'm very conflicted in looking at it; I wish he'd chosen a different medium. Those are old books he's killing, ones from when bookbinders took pride in their work, and it makes me sad.
posted by Malor at 2:09 PM on August 31, 2007

Amazing links, jonson. Thanks!
posted by mosspink at 3:57 PM on August 31, 2007

He's MAKING something out of PAPER. He isn't DESTROYING anything.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:19 PM on August 31, 2007

I don't think you're going to be reading those books anymore.
posted by Malor at 7:25 PM on August 31, 2007

Why would you do that to a book?

It's monstrous.
posted by oddman at 8:02 PM on August 31, 2007

Y'all are nuts. Do you also love cheap 70's paperbacks?
posted by smackfu at 9:13 PM on August 31, 2007

Wait, don't answer that. I don't want to know.
posted by smackfu at 9:34 PM on August 31, 2007

I'd love to see what this guy would do with a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus.
posted by maurice at 4:11 AM on September 1, 2007

I've heard of deconstruction, but this is ridiculous.

Seriously, I think this is fantastic. I used to have a tendency. toward book-worship, but have gotten over it. Obviously there are antique and rare books that shouldn't be messed with, but by and large books are tools and aren't worth any more idolatry than a hammer.
posted by Shohn at 6:01 AM on September 1, 2007

Mind boggling work. Wow. What a thrill. Thanks jonson.
posted by nickyskye at 7:32 AM on September 1, 2007

PS Looking at his work more thoroughly, they aren't merely astonishing, they're so beautiful! Haven't enjoyed something so intensely in a long time.

Just called the gallery that represents his work here in NYC:

Haydeé Rovirosa Gallery
529 W 20th St. Floor 7, New York, NY 10011, T. 212 462 2600

They're located between 10th and 11th Avenues. They sold most of the pieces of his but still have a few left. I'm going there to have a look.
posted by nickyskye at 7:55 AM on September 1, 2007

jonson, you ... well ... goddamn ... understand there is an unwritten "expletive COOL" voiced by me for seemingly every post you make ... and this is no exception.
posted by phoque at 8:19 AM on September 1, 2007

"Those are old books he's killing"

I feel more like it's resurrecting than killing.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks, phoque! I appreciate the compliment.
posted by jonson at 12:24 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cara Barer: "My photographs are primarily a documentation of a physical evolution. I have changed a common object into sculpture in a state of flux."
posted by carsonb at 4:55 PM on September 1, 2007

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