As Borges described in his famous the story, "The Library of Babel", the library is a metaphor for existence and our ability to understand it. The library is the unseen world and what we know of it- knowledge that we accumulate, process, and lose all the time. The library represents the human need to create order out of chaos and infinity. However, the library itself is a field of mirrors, mazes and realities- physical and imaginary- an arena of interpretations and world-views. What is this catalog that is buried in the card catalog cabinet? Ostensibly it is the cipher of ciphers, the index to every world. But it itself is a creation of the library, an inseparable part of it- the Freudian "The Miracle Album" in which the footsteps of the soul, indecipherable from the soul itself, are recorded.
The genesis of the exhibit came in light of the changes taking place at the National Library: the transition from a physical catalog to a digital one; the scanning and digital storage of the entirety of the Library's collections (alongside the physical books and journals); the move from its current historical home, to its new home in 2018. The card catalog cabinets which are soon to be abandoned are historical, artistic and symbolic objects. The initiators of the project saw fit to preserve them and to recommend their use as the foundation for artistic activity. In the framework of the project, which lasted about a year, artists were invited to choose one of the cabinets as a starting point for works that would deal with the idea of the Library, catalog and archive in their cultural, political and societal meanings within a range of experiences: collective and private, Jewish and Israeli, and universal and human.
All the works began with the physical cabinet, however, they take leave of it and embark on emotional, formative, philosophical and aesthetic journeys. They raise questions regarding knowledge and language, the ways in which we classify and demarcate, the relationship between linguistic imagery and visual imagery, and the desire to memorialize and the fear of being forgotten. Every one of them leads us on a different path, divergent, but taken together they create an encyclopedic space of sensory and conceptual wanderings that deal with the assembly and dismantling of what we are. Beyond the walls of the exhibit the Library itself peers into these physical and virtual worlds.
And so, according the Borges, the librarian of genius comes to the conclusion that the Library includes: "All-the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels the faithful catalog of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog, the gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary upon that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language, the interpolations of every book into all books…" (Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Library of Babel." Collected Fictions. Trans. Andrew Hurley. NewYork: Penguin, 1998.)
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