In the course of his 30 years of practice, interdisciplinary artist Guy Laramée has created in such varied and numerous disciplines as theater writing and directing, contemporary music composition, musical instrument design and building, singing, video, scenography, sculpture, installation, painting, and literature. He has received more than 30 arts grants and was awarded the Canada Council’s Joseph S. Stauffer award for musical composition. His work has been presented in United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Latin America.
SoR: What was your inspiration for your book sculptures?
Laramée: A deep existential crisis triggered by a very ambiguous relation to knowledge.
SoR: How long does it take you to complete one sculpture?
Laramée: Depends: one week to ten years. Some I will not have the time to finish in this lifetime.
SoR: What was the process for sculpting books? Did you have to stick the pages together?
Laramée: No glue whatsoever. In fact I have to remove the glue that is already there. The glue in my mind I mean.
SoR: Why books and why the scenes you chose?
Laramée: Why wood? Why paint? Why your question? Why anything? When you enter REALLY into that questioning, then you stop sleeping. If you're lucky enough to avoid medication in times of big crisis, then the process of purification takes place and the work asks to be done. It's no longer you who do it.
SoR: How did you develop the process for sculpting books when something like this hadn't been done before?
Laramée: I had been done before! Book art is a very old thing. The ancient thought of poets as prophet, not as craftsmen. We have to go back!
SoR: Does the content of the book matter or influence the sculpture?
Laramée: What is "content"? How do you define it? Is your question influenced by the "content" of my art? Again, the role of the artist is to have us questioning everything, but not the way we generally: asking questions to get answers, just a BIG open question.
So now you have to give an answer to that: What IS "content"? Would you be contented (...) if you would find an answer?
SoR: What kind of books do you read for fun? What was your favorite?
Laramée: I never read for fun. Reading is a serious thing. Life is a serious thing, the proof being that it will end too soon for each of us.
SoR: What do you want the book sculptures to convey to the audience?
Laramée: I don't want to convey anything. This is not a desire I have. The works are being done because they have to be done. Meanwhile, I am purified of the personal, the individual that is taken to be me. And the audience responds to that by a sense of marvel, of wonder, which is but the sign that the work operates on them in the same way it operates on me: removing the "I" and getting back to contemplation.
SoR: What would you say to someone who thought you were just destroying books?
Laramée: I would say: you just destroyed so many things by saying this. Your body destroyed food, the bad emotion destroyed your mind, etc. What I do is a sacrifice: the victims become sacred precisely because it is killed. Now we lost the notion of sacrifice and that is why we get angry when someone performs one. We feel guilty that we lost something so precious, that the hedonism of modern life had us losing the feeling of our own finitude, and we project this guilt as anger over someone else.
The mind destroys itself all the time anyway, why bother?
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 glimpsed 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.
Guy Laramée, March 2008
SoR: What is your advice to budding artists?
SoR: As an artist who sculpts out of books, what are your thoughts on the age of digital books and e-readers?
Laramée: Will new technologies change anything to our existential drama?