. art —

Year created:


Book of Books

Book of Books begins with four themes.

Firstly that it might be possible to write the works of Shakespeare using random methods if enough time and processing power were applied. The commonest form of this idea is that a room full of monkeys given enough time could achieve this.

The second theme comes from Jorge Luis Borges's story "The Library of Babel" where he imagines a library that contains every book, even hypothetical books, including those made up of utter nonsense, and of course the book that contains all books. The mathematician Kurt Goeddel, in his refutation of Whitehead and Russell's thesis that it should be possible to mathematically contain everything, demonstrated that as no formal system can contain itself it is logically infinite and thus cannot contain everything. Borges uses this as the premise for his library which also, by definition, would have to be infinite.

The third premise relates to another Babel story, that of the Old Testament, where the once unified human language has been destroyed and divided into innumerable other languages and dialects.

The final theme is an attempt to create a form of writing where the text is always written from inside the body of the text. New words are added to a text at any point in the text, thus creating a text that expands from the inside out and is able to do so at any point in its sequence.

In "Book of Books" all four themes are brought into play with one another at the same time. Rather than monkeys typing we have a computer program tirelessly generating random words and inserting them into the resulting ever expanding text, thus creating a text that is written from the inside out from any point in its structure. Borges's book that contains all books is also evoked as we can imagine that this system might, given an infinite period of time and processing power, generate such a book. Finally, as we watch the texts generated become smaller and smaller, the typographic structures seeking to remain fully visible on the screen, we see the unique characteristics that allow us to recognise different typographies, even different languages and scripting systems, come to resemble one another. Eventually, after a reasonable period of time (on a 1 gigaherz Mac about an hour or so), the text is reduced to a one pixel font size at which point it resembles our new universal language, binary code. All languages are thus seen to be one and the same in a demonstration of what the term convergence media might really imply, as the erasure of difference leads to the text becoming unreadable.