In The Library of Babel, Jorge Borges explores fundamental questions surrounding language and literature; additionally, he explores the paradox’s of apparent human finitude in an infinite space and time. In 2014 we built an art installation as an homage to this epic story by placing a bunch of empty, handmade books into a Library in the middle of the desert a few thousand feet from a hundred foot tall man which would soon be incenerated. I intend this page can be used as some form of documentation, a mini-wiki for a project with tens of thousands of hours invested into its initial and so far only debut. Indeed, the DiSorient wiki is an inspiration for my own attept at an in depth look at this project. I hope we can get many more photos of it, and eventually raise some money to archive the remaning materials. It would be nice to try to create a permanent installation somewhere as well.
I applied for and recieved a Burning Man Grant for $15,000. A bunch of 20 year old kids from Reno formed the primary crew. Along with some mentors and well over a hundred volunteers, we were able to in 4 months build a 45 foot wooden structure with 400 handmade books to accompany it. There were, I suspect, well over 10,000 hours of time that went directly into building this Library.
- ’ = feet
- ” = inches
The design was simple & modular. Facilitating the fabrication and construction processes, The Library was envisioned such that it could be prefabricated, built, and dissassembled all with as few steps, and complexity, as possible. Its humbling to remembmer that of the crew had little to no construction experience.
Inscribing the hexagonal exterior in a circle the diameter was 48’, with a 24’ interior hexagon to be built upon the base and upon which the 25’ geodesic half dome cupola would sit, reaching a maximum height of about 44’.
The six lower section walls were 24’ x 16’, each in turn being composed of six 4’ x 16’ subwalls. These dimensions were chosen so that we didn’t have to cut much plywood. The upper walls were 12’ x 10’, with three subwalls 4’ x 10’. The cuts we made in this upper section necessarily broke the regular symmetry pattern.
Peter was responisble for all these designs. We were inspired by the Girih tile patterns found across the Islamic architectural canon, and hoped to pay homage to the early Persian discovery of advanced constructions using what today are called quasicrystals.
One of the ideas that really inspired me was how interpretation was in some sense a greater infinity, or mathematical cardinality, than that of the initial construction. I suppose the “completion of the piece” was at the end of Burning Man, but the books pay an invaluable homage to much of the community at large for Burning Man 2014. I say this because, despite the books being (almost) empty at the beginning of the week, many individuals who didn’t attend burning man that year had already contributed to the project.
I wanted these notions of multiple infinities to converge through the design, rather than taking Borges’ strict description. We CNC’d the shelving & seating such that they could fully envelop the walls and embed the Burners directly in the installation.
We cut angle jigs as well as inserted extra angled 2x4s to be able to attach the ribbed pieces continuously along, starting from the middle of a wall and spaced evenly at [2.5,5.0,7.5,10.0,12.5,15.0] degrees at a vertex of the exterior hexagon. This was by far the most confusing and difficult part of the project both in the fabrication and installation phases.
Originally, I had envisaged a Library adopting the exactitude explicated in Borges’ rigid description. However, I soon met Rory, an artist whose craft is paper, and the decision was made to bind our own hand-made books out of recycled materials. We hoped to reinspire the act of writing itself, with words from telephone books, junk mail, and sometimes even the drafts of the library a priori embdedded in the pages. The act of writing on top of scrambled, nonlinear chunks of source material was provided the space with its own infinite interpretation and develop, despite being only a single hexagonal room.