November 20, 2010 - January 11, 2011

  • Brian Dettmer

SALTWORKS is pleased to present the highly anticipated solo Atlanta debut of artist Brian Dettmer’s New Worlds to Conquer on view November 20, 2010 – January 15, 2011.

Sculpting traditional hard-cover books into artworks of intricate beauty, their richness and depth is uncovered and re-contextualized. Taking inspiration from the book “New Worlds to Conquer” by Richard Halliburton (1929) the exhibition harkens back to a time when exploration of new lands fueled the fire of imagination and intrigue.

Between WWI and WWII transcontinental flight first became possible but was still only accessible to an elite few with the drive and the means to explore the world. Far-away lands were at once within reach and a new quest for knowledge and adventure began. Adventurers returned from their explorations with exotic novelties and eye-opening stories of what they discovered on the other side of the globe. Museums exploded with the proliferation of newly discovered artifacts found around the world. The quest for knowledge boomed; ideas developed into books and encyclopedias expanded. The hunger for knowledge of the unknown fueled the quest and books became the perfect vehicle to spread the stories and discoveries made around the world.

The form of the book is singular and unidirectional, making it the perfect vehicle to tell a story from a single observation or perspective. When ideas develop from multiple sources or are arranged in a non-linear manner the structure of the book and the content within collide and begin to de-rail. Form no longer follows function. Information and ideas are not static. Knowledge is constantly fluctuating and evolving and the newer forms it takes follow this fluidity. Newer media swiftly flips and mutates, unrestricted by the weight of material and history. Material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding, from a tangible constant to an endless series of digital mutations. The richness and depth of older books is universally respected yet often undiscovered, as users need a quicker, slicker bite of information. The book’s intended function has decreased. Its relevance is still vital but the content stays sedentary and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. We are left with raw material.

For Dettmer’s first solo show in Atlanta, he continue to explore endless possibilities of the book as material and content. Questioning and examining the relationship between exploration and exploitation within records of knowledge and within the process of working with pre-existing media. When exploration has covered the surface a point is reached where one must ask if the continuation is deeper exploration or if it is an exploitation of obtainable materials and natural resources. When resources are locally exhausted, desperation sets in and extreme measures begin to take place. Exploration for adventure and knowledge has evolved into a complex paradigm of exploitation, appropriation and war.

The ideas and esthetics of the search for knowledge and adventure, travel, exploitation and war (specifically in the first half of the twentieth century) are examined in this exhibition. Rectangular books on history and civilization are broken down and excavated, resulting in a sculptural forms and pictorial collages of re-exposed, fragmented memories. Books are shuffled and folded into one another to create combines which form more complex shapes and become explored as a whole. Records of travel and distant lands break apart as space and place fracture into a new matrix of connections and ideas. Texts break from a masked narration of violence and a series of extreme ideas and random ephemera to support expansion are exposed. The singular perspective is broken.