Cara Barer

I transform books into art by sculpting them, dyeing them and then through the medium of photography presenting them anew as objects of beauty. I create a record of that book and its half-life. Books, physical objects and repositories of information, are being displaced by zeros and ones in a digital universe with no physicality.  Through my art, I document this and raise questions about the fragile and ephemeral nature of books and their future.

I realized I owned many books that were no longer of use to me, or for that matter, anyone else. Would I ever need a “Windows 95 Manual”?  After soaking it in the bathtub for a few hours, it had a new shape and purpose. Half-Price Books became a regular haunt, and an abandoned house yielded a set of outdated reference books, complete with mold and neglect. Each book tells me how to begin according to its size, type of paper and sometimes contents.

As I begin the process, I first consider the contents of each volume. I only spent a few seconds on the “Windows 95 Manual”. The “New Century Dictionary of the English Language,” was a treasure. Its fascinating illustrations and archaic examples saved it from taking on a new form.

This transformation and photographic documentation led to thoughts on obsolescence and the relevance of libraries in this century. Half a century ago, students researched at home with the family set of encyclopedias, or took a trip to the library to locate information. Now, with computers, tablets and/or smartphones, an Internet connection and cloud storage, a student has the ability to amass knowledge and complete a research paper without ever going near a library. I have fully embraced all this technology, and would not want to be without it, but fear the loss of the beautiful record of books common over the last two centuries.

Cara Barer has exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the US and Canada since 1994. Her work has been featured extensively in such publications as New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine, The Boston Globe and The New Yorker, and can be found in the collections of Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Lehigh University, Nordstrom, United States Embassy, Kyiv, Ukraine, VISA, Wells Fargo Bank and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Barer lives and works in Houston, Texas.