Books On Books Collection – Masoumeh Mohtadi


Blindness (2020)

Blindness (2020)
Masoumeh Mohtadi
Altered paperback, Persian/Farsi translation of Blindness by José Saramago. H210 x W145 x D20 mm, ۳۱۸ (318) pages. Unique. Acquired from Bavan Gallery, 9 January 2021.

As would be expected, the binding of this Persian trade paperback is on the right, but its front cover and copyright page promise the unexpected. Excising lines of text from every page in the book, Mohtadi then physically reweaves Saramago’s gripping tale of a pandemic of sudden blindness into illegibility, varied patterns and heightened tactility.

The flimsiness of the pages slows their turning. As does their frequent catching at one another as they turn. In the slow turning, different woven patterns appear — some suddenly, some gradually. Some patterns bring to mind the streets and cityscape the novel’s characters can no longer see. Some, the hospital warrens the quarantined inhabit. Some, the tradition of carpet weaving.

The excised and woven pages inflate the book as if it had been read and re-read. Closed, it compresses in the hand, feels airy and weighty at the same time; opened, it pricks at the fingers, casts shadow and light and drags the eyes to surface and depth simultaneously.

Mohtadi’s cutting, weaving, pasting and patterning appropriates Saramago’s novel in a thoroughly integral way. And for a Western reader, the Persian translation and script introduce another layer between text and mind that challenges perception and enhances appreciation of this work of book art. She succeeds in connecting.

Further Reading

A Reading Room with No Books: A Discussion on Artists’ Books”, Center for Book Arts, New York, NY. 28 January 2021. Accessed 1 February 2021. Mohtadi begins speaking about her works at the 13’49” mark in the video.

Guy Laramée”, Books On Books Collection, 18 September 2019. For Laramée’s response to Saramago’s A Caverna.

Francesca Capone”, Books On Books Collection, 5 November 2020. For Capone’s exploration of integrating weaving and language.

Books On Books Collection – Guy Laramée

A Caverna (2012)

A Caverna (2012)
Guy Laramée
Portuguese-Spanish dictionary carved. Wood and velvet plinth, wood-framed glass cover. H260 x W276 x D226 mm
Acquired from William Baczek Fine Arts, 12 September 2017.

H160 x W105 x D80 mm

Inspired by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s novel of the same name, A Caverna treats the pages of words as so much clay to be gouged from the dictionary. But a dig into this novel about a rural potter struggling to live and love in a conglomerate capitalist dystopia — and into Laramée’s artist’s statement — suggests that there is more to the work.

The central character of the novel is the potter Cipriano Algor. He lives with his daughter Marta, son-in-law Marcal, the dog (Found) and ultimately the widow Isaura Estudioso. Succumbing to Marta’s and Marcal’s plea that he move to the Centre with them since the conglomerate Centre will no longer purchase his wares, Cipriano stumbles one night onto the Centre’s subterranean secret: a nightmare Plato’s cave. In her review of the novel, Amanda Hopkinson shares this comment from her interview with Saramago: “Western civilisation has never been as close to living in Plato’s cave as we are now… We no longer simply live through images: we live through images that don’t even exist.”

In his artist’s statement, Laramée writes: “The erosion of cultures – and of “culture” as a whole – is the theme that runs through the last 25 years of my artistic practice. Cultures emerge, 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 ask 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? What is it in ourselves that insists on grabbing, on casting the flow of experience into concepts?”

Yet Cipriano endured. Saramago continued to write. Laramée continues to create art. Both the novel and the sculpture urge us to reflect and contemplate what the poet Stevens called the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”.

Further Reading

Guy Laramée”, Books On Books, 16 February 2013.

Tever, Abdulkerim. “Guy Laramée: ‘Colors’ episode 1“, TRT2, 5 March 2020. Accessed from JHB Gallery, 19 March 2020. “The six-minute spot, which will air on TRT2, the cultural and educational channel of Turkey’s national broadcaster, follows Laramée as he works in his studio and traverses his native Montreal. The artist shares his thoughts on his work, the studio as a place of refuge, and on the daily processes of art-making as a unique form of knowledge—one that offers a radical alternative in our increasingly outcome-driven world. Directed by Abdulkerim Tever, the film includes some stunning close-up photography of Laramée’s unique book-landscapes—as they are being created, as well as in their finished form.”

Van Loon, Ben. “Interview with Guy Laramée, Part I”, ANOBIUM, 18 April 2012. Part II and Part III. Accessed 12 September 2019.