November 6th, 2015, 6:30-9 p.m
On November 6th, Jonathan Basile and Recess will present Uninventional. Basile will host a discussion about the implications of the universal library—both the digital version housed at the website he created, libraryofbabel.info, and the idea that has haunted philosophers and poets from Democritus to Borges.
Basile’s website translates Borges’ vision of a library containing every possible permutation of letters over 410 pages, as expressed in “The Library of Babel,” while the Babel Image Archives expand this notion to the visual realm. During the event, artist David Horvitz and bibliographer David Senior will have ongoing access to libraryofbabel.info. As the program unfolds, they will look up pictures of the event and quotations from the conversation in libraryofbabel.info’s image and text archives, inevitably finding that these were foretold in its pages.
Long before this archive existed on the web, the idea of a library containing every possible permutation of letters—everything that ever has been and ever could be written—has exerted an influence from its place at the essence of language. Rather than waiting for some novel instantiation, the universal library has always existed as the deconstruction of the distinction between invention and discovery, and reminds us that every action and thought, including the creation of the library itself, is a found text.
This iterability is not limited to the realm of discourse, as though language were a layer of representation superimposed on a reality spared these vicissitudes. In addition to the universal text archive, libraryofbabel.info also contains a universal image archive of every possible 4096-color, 640×416 pixel image. Though the classical concept of linguistic and aesthetic experience regards the latter as an immediate access to reality and the former as a layer of representation added extrinsically, the image archive exists to remind us that nothing can be accessed without the mediation of the iterable mark. Thus, such sensations as sight and touch are possible in the absence of any motivating occasion or object, and every experience is already interwoven with conceptual or discursive thought.
Borges relates his library to a certain vision of the eternal return, which, as he says, returns eternally. The atomist philosophers who first understood language as the permutations of its basic elements—the letters—described the universe as a finite set of atoms that would, by necessity, exhaust its possibilities and begin to repeat itself. Though it is impossible to deny that our experience does not reach beyond the signifiers subject to this exhaustion, an existence composed of them alone would not be internally coherent. Thus we remain open to the impossible possibility of the inner difference of things and the ceaseless novelty of time (rather than the temporal), which grants us an elusive inexhaustibility.
About the participants:
Jonathan Basile is a fiction writer, philosopher, and computer programmer. His work in each of these fields considers that which transcends desire, control, and intentionality.
David Horvitz was born in California in 1982 and lives in Brooklyn. Recent soi exhibitions include: concurrent shows at Jan Mot, Brussels, and Dawid Radziszewski Gallery, Warsaw; Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; Peter Amby, Copenhagen; Statements, Art Basel; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; and Chert, Berlin. His work has been shown at the Kochi Biennial 2014, Crossing Brooklyn 2014, EVA International 2014, Glasgow International 2014, LIAF 2013, MoMA, The Kitchen, and the New Museum. In New York, he has realized projects with Recess, Clocktower Gallery, post at MoMA, Printed Matter, Rhizome, and Triple Canopy. Recent artist books include The Distance of a Day (2013; Motto Books & Chert) and Sad, Depressed, People, (2012; New Documents). He received the Rema Hort Mann Grant in 2011 and was nominated for the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2011. In 2013, he founded Porcino gallery in Berlin. Horvitz’s work will appear in the upcoming Baltic Biennial and at the Museum of Modern Art in 2015.
David Senior is the bibliographer at the Museum of Modern Art Library, where he manages collection development, including the library’s artists’ books collection. Senior lectures often on the history of artists’ publications and contemporary art and design publishing. He also curates exhibitions of MoMA Library materials including: Ray Johnson Designs, Please Come to the Show, Millennium Magazines, Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968–74. Please Come to the Show, a book documenting his exhibition of artists’ invitations and show flyers from the MoMA Library, was published by Occasional Papers in 2014. His writing has appeared in Frieze, Dot Dot Dot, Bulletins of the Serving Library, ART PAPERS, and C Magazine. He organizes a regular program of events for the New York Art Book Fair and the LA Art Book Fair called the Classroom. Senior edited an artists’ book series through Printed Matter and the NYABF from 2008-2014, which included publications with Dexter Sinister, David Horvitz, Emily Roysdon, Aaron Flint Jamison, James Hoff and Eve Fowler. He serves on the board of directors of Primary Information and Yale Union.