Friday, February 27, 2004

The Army Dude reads


Last night I got to see Guy Larmee's "Biblios the last book." In short it was wicked cool! Kick-ass! And very interesting to boot. The press release sent out by UQAM starts with the "Biblios" definition of a hole: "vide avec quelque chose autour" Which is also how Dunkin' Donuts discovered Munchkins, and Tim Horton's created TimBits.

It then goes on to quote Borges. To which I would respond with a quote from Ambrose Bierce:

A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic� - link
While Borges' story riffs off an idea of an infinite library, and M. Laramee makes up very effective sculptures to illustrate it. Bierce, too, makes up a whole whack of stuff intended to illustrate life in the late nineteenth century. Using one (Bierce) to reflect upon the other (Laramee) is only going to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, which while not my aim, is going to be a unintended side effect.

There are three sculptures in the exhibition, going from left to right, you have Laramee's architectural model of Borges' Library of Babel.

Then smack dab in front of you as you walk into the smaller gallery in UQAM, M. Laramee has made another model, this one an artistic interpretation of the Colorado River or perhaps the Snake River. (Or as I assume M. Laramee is Quebecois, perhaps some gorge, ravine, fjord in Northern Qu�bec or maybe the Gaspe, I don't know enough about my Qu�bec geography to nail it). But the wicked cool amd kick-ass thing about it, is that it is made entirely out a couple of old editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, sandblasted to look like what you would imagine Montana, would look like if God had been a reader instead of a writer.

This is where the Bierce comes in handy. When you sandblast, there is a humongous amount of dust, you (in this day and age) are obligated to wear a mask over your nose and mouth.

Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull. - link
Now, I'm not implying, nor should you infer that M. Laramee's skull is empty, quite the opposite, when he was sandblasting he probably kept all the holes in his skull covered, and covered well. But by attempting to show what Borges' Library of Babel looks like, he is in fact deceiving the viewer. Back to Bierce:

The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished from one's own by superior insincerity and fooling. This method is that of the later Sophists, a Grecian sect of philosophers who began by teaching wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever men ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of quibbles and a fog of words. - link
Which then leads us to the third object in the room, which is a bizarre approximation of a nineteenth century desk, complete with all sorts of nooks, crannies, shelves, drawers and doo-hickies, with a single light coming from one shelf at 12 o'clock as you sit at the desk. Now while in Borges' story he makes no mention of a workspace, it becomes pretty obvious that all the librarians would need someplace to work within the library, which leads us back to Bierce:

The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another's treasure. - link
Which ends up being my point (having taken the long route around) it is all a pack of lies.

But they are very pretty lies.

Upon reading the press release, I would have preferred to see something that made specific reference to the three hard drive failures that M. Laramee had experienced, and instead of sandblasting, perhaps delving into biology and trying to culture the mold that attacks his books. But jeez, if I was suggesting that then maybe I should become the artist. Or without having read the press release, the landscaped books could have benefited from some pattern (Borges himself touts the helpfulness of patterns) or more model making.

(no, this wasn't in the exhibit, but it gives you an idea of the other stuff M. Laramee is capable of doing.

And I am still not quite certain of how the desk relates to the other two pieces, but this is mostly a history of my thoughts about the exhibit, which leads us back to Bierce:

An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. - link

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