Meyers Lexicon (Geislerspitzen)

2014. Carved and eroded 1933 Austrian encyclopedia, inks, pigments, metal stand. Collection of the Messner Mountain Museum, Italy.

Meyers Lexicon was commissioned to celebrate Reinhold Messner's 70th birthday. Messner is the world renowned mountain climber who became famous by being the first alpinist to ascend Mount Everest without oxygen. He is now retired and dedicates his time to the expansion of the group of mountain museums he founded. These museums celebrate all cultural aspects of our relation to mountains, including the religious dimension.

The piece is a naturalist interpretation of the Geislerspitzen, a mountain range in south Tyrol that is part of what is called the Dolomites. Messner climbed the Geislerspitzen when he was 5 years old and that was the experience that decided of his fate.

I was interested in depicting this mountain range because the topography of it seemed to me to somewhat portray our existential condition. We wander on cozy grassy meadows until we realized that they end abruptly into an abyss. We would like to continue our cozy journey on the plain, but the slope starts to rise leaving us no choice : or we climb what gradually becomes a steep mountain, or we fall into the void.

We could always draw back and come back home, but there are some challenges that cannot be avoided, and they are the one that makes us realize that there is never any coming back.

Or maybe, as 17th century Zen master Hakuin said, " In going and returning we never leave home" ?

-Guy Laramée