An infinite loop of learning, library in Delhi incorporating elements of virtual reality 

When most people think about libraries, they think of books. But, if we go back in time, there were ways in which human beings transmitted culture without books

author_img Dyuti Roy Published :  26th March 2022 12:37 PM   |   Published :   |  26th March 2022 12:37 PM
The Infinite Library

Visitors experiencing The Infinite Library

When most people think about libraries, they think of books. But, if we go back in time, there were ways in which human beings transmitted culture without books. In fact, most traditions are still oral. And while I love libraries, I believe if libraries had a chance to expand, especially with AI and VR, they could become like living organisms,” said multi-media artist Mika Johnson when we met him at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, on Wednesday afternoon. 

For his travelling installation, Johnson has drawn inspiration from The Library of Babel, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges that speaks of a vast library with every possible book on 25 specific symbols, as well as the discovery of an over 70-thousand-year-old piece of ochre with markings at Blombos Cave, South Africa. ‘The Infinite Library’ is a Virtual Reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to an infinite possibility of knowledge. “I thought this would be great with VR because in this medium, you can play with space and I could conceive an infinite library,” added Johnson. 

Multi-sensory storytelling
The library—it is set in a virtual cave—that premiered at the Institut on March 22, will be on display in Delhi till Sunday. Within the main library, the project also offers three sub-libraries, each dedicated to a system of knowledge—the Library of Shadows for South Asian Puppetry, the Library of Elements for European Alchemy, and the Library of Navigation for Polynesian Navigation. 

As we entered the virtual cave—Johnson calls it the foyer of the Library—we encountered eight pools of water, each reflecting a phase of the moon, which highlighted eight stories of the evolution of our planet. Beginning from swirling cosmic dust, the pools trace history from the creation of Earth to Homo sapiens’ early ancestors (the Australopithecus). “It is kind of like a journey from cosmic dust to consciousness,” Johnson explained. Through the cave, one can navigate to the three smaller spaces, each one engaging you with a special activity as a way of passing knowledge. If you look carefully, you will find that the library is also inhabited by a number of animals—there’s a snake, a whale, and even a turtle who is the librarian. Johnson added that the cave is almost like a labyrinth that one might get lost into.

Blending the old with new
Along with The Infinite Library, the event also has an ongoing exhibition of shadow puppetry conceptualised by founder of Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust and puppeteer Anurupa Roy. A coming together of the art of shadow puppetry with leather puppets and contemporary techniques of the art form, the show features a range of leather puppet characters from the Hindu myth of the Samudra Manthan, made by Karnataka-based shadow puppeteer Gunduraju. “While it is true one must move with the times, it is important to respect the old,” shared Gunduraju.

An art form that harps on oral storytelling, the exhibition is an appropriate segue to The Infinite Library. In fact, this juxtaposing between an old art form and VR makes the event an exciting space that offers the knowledge of history in order to move forward in time. 

WHAT: The Infinite Library Full VR Experience and Shadow Puppetry Exhibition
WHEN: Till March 27, 10:00am to 6:00pm
WHERE: Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg