Guy Laramee

Photos: Guy Laramee

With the increasing popularity of electronic readers and e-books, the future use of hard-bound books also comes under question. While designers have responded with the likes of lighting, accessories and even fashion made entirely out of old books, French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tackles it from a decidedly philosophical — and creative — perspective, carving intricate, three-dimensional landscapes that look amazingly real up close.

Guy Laramee Grand Larousse

Guy Laramee Grand Larousse detail

Based out of Montréal, Laramée is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, director, composer and anthropologist. "Biblio" and "The Great Wall" are his series of sculpted vintage books, which range from ridged landscapes and Zen gardens to actual archaeological landmarks like the Temple of Petra.

Guy Laramee Great Wall 1

Guy Laramee Great Wall 2

Guy Laramee The Temple of Petra

While on one level Laramée is finding a good use for obsolete books, there's also a deeper commentary underlying his practice. For the past three decades, his works have focused on the nature of human consciousness and knowing, and also what he calls the "erosion of cultures," including that surrounding the book:

Cultures arise, 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. The library, as a place, is finished. One might say: so what? Do we really believe that “new technologies” will change anything concerning our existential dilemma, our human condition? And even if we could change the content of all the books on earth, would this change anything in relation to the domination of analytical knowledge over intuitive knowledge?
Guy Laramee Biblios 1

In a way, Laramée's work with carving out these tomes alludes to an excavation of our over-reliance on analytical knowledge, symbolized by the book. As Laramée points out, our existence — our birth, life and death and who we truly are — is an unknowable mystery, and that "ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation":

So I carve landscapes out of books and I paint Romantic landscapes. Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.
Guy Laramee Biblios 2

Guy Laramee Biblios 3

Laramée's website is an interesting read and visual delight. Laramée's next exhibition is coming up at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at The College Of Charleston in South Carolina from May 23 ­to July 6, 2013.

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This story was originally written for TreeHugger. Copyright 2012.