Doug Beube
The Portable Knowledge of Obsolescence

2002
altered encyclopedia, wheel, metal wood, brass,
51 x 10 x 10 in.
A set of Funk and Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedias published in 1943, precariously balance on a single wooden table leg with a brass wheel attached to the bottom. The books are stacked slightly askew, giving the illusion of an ascending or descending spiral. Ontop of the first book, is a metal handle made from 3/4” pipe with a bar fabricated to run through the center of the books. The handle, made of a gray steel used by plumbers to connect gas pipes, is similar to the material used by terrorists to make ‘pipe-bombs.’ Another interpretation associated with the handle is, it can be seen as a spigot for the knowledge contained within the books, to flood out through the end of the pipe.

When lifted from the stand, the attached handle pulls the books from its support. The viewer rolls the encyclopedias with effort twisting the handle from side to side, symbolically transforming the books into a vacuum cleaner, as if sucking up information as it is pushes along the ground. However, the instability and weight of the books forces the viewer to want to drop the unmanageable load. As a metaphor, it’s as if the viewer or reader, can no longer sustain or use the encyclopedias in hand, releasing the burden of the books and by implication the knowledge within.
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