repurposing

Posted by Ellen

When I lived in North Carolina in the 1970s, downtown Durham was dead, dying, decrepit, and pretty much a mess. They were still making Lucky Strikes in town, but the old tobacco mills were already mostly abandoned, and by 1987 every last one of them was shuttered.

When I visited Durham last week, I don't think I saw a single empty mill. They are all restaurants now, or condos, or shops and galleries and studios and offices. In back of the Lucky Strike chimney is a baseball stadium for the minor-league Durham Bulls. A couple blocks away is a new theater complex, where Wicked was playing.

There are umpteen hundred old mill towns in America that died and stayed dead. And then there are a few that did this sort of thing. As for the cigarettes, I'm told that Lucky Strike is one of the major clients of the 1960s-era ad agency in Mad Men on TV, and that Luckies are still being sold today, filtered and unfiltered both. I don't know where the cigarettes are made, though–maybe Malaysia?

Posted by Ellen

Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer takes scissors to old books–also scalpels and tweezers and other surgical instruments–to reveal a sort of alternate reality deep inside. Nothing in the book is altered, he says; nothing is relocated or added. He just cuts out the words and pictures and stuff that are in the way of the words and pictures and stuff he wants the world to see.

Dettmer especially likes to slice up volumes of old encyclopedias or illustrated dictionaries, works with numerous and varied illustrations. "The book's intended function has decreased," he says; old books are "still linear in a non-linear world." By twisting the spine and cutting the pages, he exposes cast-off words and pictures to new kinds of appreciation.