Reno’s KTVN 2 news brings us a story about the Library of Babel, which is taking shape at The Generator in Sparks, NV. It will be 50 feet across and 45 feet tall, with silk screening based on Muslim designs.
Based on an idea of Jose Borges more than a century ago, the massive structure will be filled with books. They are making the books and even the paper themselves. What will fill the books? That’s up to Burners, who will be let loose in the structure with marker pens. The idea is to display the books to schools around the country after the event. No problems there, I’m sure a bunch of naked, drug-fuelled Burners will keep it G-rated. Perhaps Burning Man’s contribution to the literary life of Nevada’s youth will help sway the local Judge, Sheriff, DA, and others who firmly believe that the party with its Slut Gardens and Orgy Domes should be adults-only.
In the early 1900’s Jose Borges wrote a story about The Library of Babel. In his story it was a library that contained all the stories ever written. In a warehouse in Sparks, Warrick Macmillan is building his own, with a Burning Man slant.
“It is the physical interpretation of that story,” Macmillan tells me as crews begin assembling the walls for the hexagonal building.
“We silk screened all of this which was mind blowing,” says Peter Laxalt, a local graphic designer working on the project. “I mean think about just silk screening a T-shirt and what that takes and then transferring that to an 8 foot by 10 foot wall…it’s amazing. And it worked!”
Crews are rotating in at all kinds of hours to help Macmillan get his project off the ground. And he’s found some monetary support.
“We got a grant from the Burning Man Foundation for like three-fourths of this and a smaller grant from the Sierra Arts Foundation for when it’s done. But we still need money for lighting the space once it’s done, and for transporting it all to the playa,” Macmillan says.
In addition to the structure, they are filling the library with handmade books.
“Everything is repurposed,” says Macmillan. “We are using recycled paper to make our own paper and then we are putting it into books that covered with donated fabric. Each book is unique.”
All those books will be filled with whatever Burners want to fill them with at this year’s festival.
“We’re supplying paints and pens and they can draw or write or paint. We’re leaving it open and just want to see what happens,” Macmillan says.
They have a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it all. You can find it at:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2044825291/library-of-babel-burning-man-2014
The Generator is located at 1240 Icehouse Avenue.
Here is some more information from the Library of Babel’s Kickstarter page:
Any piece of art is defined not by the person creating it, but by the individual observing, interpreting, and interacting with it. The Library of Babel, a Burning Man 2014 honorarium installation being built at The Generator, is a project whose boundaries have intentionally been left open to ensure that it is not a static concept that separates those who create and observe: everyone involved in building, at Burning Man, and within our greater community will by default share the role of artist and observer.
Inspired by Borges’ short story, The Library of Babel is about a universe which is an indefinite, perhaps infinite library which contains every possible book, within which are “all the possible combinations of the twenty odd orthographic symbols.” Our intention is to interpret and expand Borges’ ideas by building a real library, and asking participants to become the librarians.
The theme of this project is simple: that we are unlimited in thought and creativity. Our ability to express ideas begins with words, but diverges into many realms of nonverbal language. The Library asks participants where this distinction lies. Upon entering the space, one will feel compelled to address this enigmatic question. Whether reading what others have written, composing one’s own stories, sketching an idea, or simply admiring the mood and discussing its values with a friend or stranger, this Library will inspire one to explore the range and limits of language.
It is an endeavor continually progressing through the interactions of those people who use the space through writing, drawing, and reading the books. It will define a unique narrative of the playa; indeed, it has no individual owner or author, but rather a more universal presence whose uncountable layers are defined by an intangible, inexpressible evolution.
…The initial draw to the library will be its distinctive exterior presence. The exterior, inspired by The Dome of the Rock, one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture still with us today. The Library will illuminate the playa with the elegant symmetries and colors of ancient Girih tile patterns, recreating the ancient artistic and mathematical genius of our predecessors.