Skull carved out of obsolete computer manuals

Maskull Lasserre, a Canadian sculptor, made this beautiful, realistic skull ("Incarnate") by clamping a collection of obsolete computer manuals together and carving away at the pages.

(Three Degrees of Certainty II) (via Colossal)


  1. Obsolete computer manuals? Sorry, computer manuals are never obsolete. In fact, the older they are the less obsolete they are.

    1. I’m a fan of classic programming texts myself — recently I discovered that the Internet Archive has copies of books from my youth like the 6502 primer “Assembly Lines”. But it looks like nothing worth saving was used here — old books about the Norton Utilities and Internet Explorer are not exactly classics.

      1. The genre of “Version X of Software Product Y for button-pushers” is not noted for its longevity…

  2. dude, that’s dope!  weird that whatever that clamp thing is, it’s worth infinitely more than the manuals.  well since they are effectively worth zero, that’s not saying much, but that clamp is probably pretty expensive by itself.  not to diminish the sculpture, since that’s obviously the jewel in the crown, but i’m just bugging off the dichotomy–it’s like an added bonus.

    1. Yeah, mind the clamp. The metal’s probably worth more in scrappage than the total charity-shop price of the books, someone might nick it :P

  3. Do art students still get instructed in that classical trope, the ‘all is vanity’ deal with the skull? Genuine question – don’t know how to engoogle that one.

      1. Ta, ‘n’all that, I’m familiar with the tradition and the terminology.

        My question was more about whether this is still taught in art schools. Say as ‘101’ stuff, or as advanced, or as specialist, or even not at all.

        Like, for example, is every first year sculpture student taught to carve a skull and – if so – are they also taught why?

        1. It depends on the school. Yes, the idea of the “momento mori”  is taught. It might be assigned, but this would really depend on the school. Most programs would likely have a more vague assignment description for early students so they might see a variety of contemporary and historical work with the concept and then be asked to generate their own.

           If they were taught to carve a skull in any decent fine art program they will be taught why, but frankly most programs will actually focus more on why with the student leading the “how” as they make attempts to get their point across.Deeper investigation of the tradition would more likely come from art history classes, and then from there depending on how deep and specific you want to go, you work you way up to graduate coursework. You would likely not be taught, however, that this is the one true way of thought.  You would be completely free to make that a central part of your own body of work, but you wouldn’t be taught that you must. Typically it works the other direction, with students enjoying the imagery and wanting to emulate it but without understanding the traditions. And now you made me miss grad school. Thanks for that.

          1. The Christian reinterpretation of the Latin tradition of memento mori through different levels – allegorical, figurative, symbolic, spiritual – highlights the possibility of sexual rebirth. I don’t think this exists in the original Latin interpretation. There are two traditions and concepts here.

          2. Might be interesting to see an anamorphic skull, a là Holbein,  done this way (but the vice might be problematic). Sorry about the memento jostle.

  4. There’s an obvious environmental message here. 3″ thick manuals, obsolete in 6 months, squandering resources, our inevitible extinction … But that point could have been made with e.g., newspapers, old encylopedias, magazines, old National Geographics, etc. There’s some significance in the use of software manuals that I find unsettling.

    Maybe that’s reading too much into it – I’m sure old software manuals are a cheap and plentiful artistic medium.

    1.  I’d be careful about that one.  I still own and refer to most of the manuals in that piece.  The only one I don’t have is the Macintosh one.  I have been critically assisted by said “ephemera” over the past twenty years; it sure feels like livin’ to me!

  5. sisyphus321 writes:

    > There’s some significance in the use of software manuals that I find unsettling.
    > Maybe that’s reading too much into it – I’m sure old software manuals are a
    > cheap and plentiful artistic medium.

    The manuals strike a chord with me – I’ve been a programmer for…thinks… 27 years now, and sometimes I get sick of having to learn more pointless shit.

    I still love programming and I’m still excited by learning new concepts, but the drudgery of learning yet another way of doing approximately the same thing with a mildly different syntax can make me feel – like sisyphus actually. But not necessarily like sisyphus321.

    Whether the artist was trying to address that or not, that’s what I’m seeing.

  6. Blah blah blah classical trope blah blah obvious environmental message.

    I think I’m with the “Dude, that’s dope!” guy.

  7. I’m pretty blown away by the construction; the problems he’s addressed just to create it, let alone conceive of it.

    As for the symbolism, I have a fairly unsubtle take-home – learn a lot of complicated shit, futz about with ones and zeroes for an inordinate proportion of your life, then die.

    The wizardry of programming always attracted me, but the drudgery repelled me more.

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