TED Talks Every Book Blogger Should Watch: Brian Dettmer's Old Books Reborn as Art

I track down TED Talks that would be of special interest to the book blogging community ... and they become a jumping board for personal musings, including yours!

I am fascinated with arts and crafts .... but Brian Dettmer's "Old Books Reborn as Art" hits that out of the park! I can't express how complex, how beautiful, how appealing these old book transformations are!

Note: The Talk is 5 minutes. Please watch it!

Brian Dettmer (BD) at 1:03: I think of my work as sort of a remix, in a way, because I'm working with somebody else's material in the same way that a D.J. might be working with somebody else's music. [..]

Artists really set themselves apart by being original. I think Dettmer is extremely modest about his abilities to take an accessible raw material like old books, reimagine them, and then actually devise the means ways of shaping them into these sculptural pieces.

BD : So I think one of the reasons people are disturbed by destroying books, people don't want to rip books and nobody really wants to throw away a book, is that we think about books as living things, we think about them as a body, and they're created to relate to our body, as far as scale, but they also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things. So books really are alive.

I've often felt it sacrilege to cut up or throw away a perfectly readable book. I'm not quite sure why but it goes beyond the act merely being wasteful. My feelings are pretty deep-seated for some reason. While Dettmer offers up his explanation as books being "living things," I'm not quite happy with this explanation. I do know they are precious, and the amount of work that goes into a book - in its writing and the physical form - should be honoured and not desecrated. Dettmer certainly does a great job at honouring books.

BD at 3:56: And I think of my work as almost an archaeology. I'm excavating and I'm trying to maximize the potential and discover as much as I possibly can and exposing it within my own work. But at the same time, I'm thinking about this idea of erasure [...]

The duality of Dettmer's work is fascinating: using what's there then putting his own stamp on it. He "kills" the original book and resurrects a new form that is a hybrid of old and new. A Frankensteined book!

BD at 5:00: So I don't think that the book will ever really die. People think that now that we have digital technology, the book is going to die, and we are seeing things shifting and things evolving. I think that the book will evolve, and just like people said painting would die when photography and printmaking became everyday materials, but what it really allowed painting to do was it allowed painting to quit its day job.

I remember when e-readers first hit the market that people were predicting the demise of the printed book. I knew then, and I know now, that that will never be the case. Thank goodness for the book blogging community who I know will continue to advocate for all sorts of books, in all forms, especially the "original" book.

I look forward to seeing what the next generation will do with the print book, apart from reading it of course. I concur with Dettmer, it's exciting stuff!

Brian Dettmer's Website
Brian Dettmer's Flickr
Photo Gallery of Brian Dettmer's Work (features on TED Talks)


What are your takeaways? What are your thoughts about old books being used as raw material for art? 

P.S. I am going to try for this to be a twice a month feature. 

P.P.S I got a comment on the last TED Talk suggesting this feature become a meme. What do you think? Would you participate? 

If you have any suggestions of TED Talks you'd like featured, or how this can evolve into a meme, I'd love to hear from you!

(I am not affiliated in any way with TED Talks. Photo for header: unsplash, TED logo from ted.com)

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall