The Borges Library, 2009-10, by Jorge Méndez Blake, is a continuation of the artist’s investigations on the voices that give meaning to the very concept of the "library." For Méndez Blake, the architectural appearance of the library, as well as its role as a book archival, should be indistinguishable from its cultural contours, its possibilities to generate and transform knowledge.
The library, precisely, is a fundamental topic in Borges’ literature. Méndez Blake explained, about the artwork he created especially for Proa, “the title The Borges Library came up while remembering the stories The Library of Babel and The Garden of Forking Paths, because my library is formed by a module that can be repeated infinitely and it also is a project meant to be located outdoors, creating a sort of labyrinth.” In the former tale, Borges proposes a library, in itself a universe, consisting of geometrically identical galleries repeated over and over, creating a maze despite their uniformity.
Méndez Blake exhibits, alongside a series of drawings and a mural, a model articulated in modules. He uses a tool typical of construction works to imagine a building whose logic exceeds that of traditional architecture. The modules create in the space a grid that has no center. Their clean, abstract appearance makes it so the shelves are not seen alongside the books. Each of the modules comes to compose, paradoxically, the entire library. These units, finite and discrete, enumerate, in their partiality, the infinite and the malleable. The grid could align well with the library proposed by Borges, which includes absolutely everything. His story is very clear: "Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.” Méndez Blake could have been inspired by such an abyss for his library, which also presents voices battling each other, interruptions and additions and personal implications. While Borges' narrative voice speaks to "you," the reader (as the library is unfathomable, it knows about your death), Méndez Blake's work opens itself to “we,” the spectators. The mirror in each module multiplies the perspectives of the library but also gives us back our image, imploring us on.
The mural’s rectangles could be either the spines of the library books or the building blocks of their shelves. The colors are taken from the design of the covers of several editions of Borges books. In the library proposed by Borges, meaning slips away permanently. Even if books contain total knowledge, nobody can find any final answers in them. Méndez Blake exhibits this displacement. His work challenges orders and methods. It installs unseen voices in the library, in architecture, in art and in culture.
Jorge Mendez Blake’s Statements
“I’ve worked in the past with an extended concept of the library, in which it becomes a micro-system about a specific subject. These small systems, which include sculptures, drawings or models, have attempted to bring together different aspects of the topic in a open-ended arrangement and relationship, which creates new meanings and connections between things.”
“I think the idea of the library as the sacred storage of written culture has to evolve into an open democratic state, in which people interact and transform the way we organize and have access to culture and knowledge. We can no longer sustain the idea of culture as just one unique volume. The idea of the library as a sole institution has to move towards an ever-changing, constantly reshaped form. Just as literature cannot be seen as a homogeneous discipline, I think the “building” that contains it should be approached in a similar way.”
“I think objects are themes in and of in and of themselves. I’m interested in objects that go beyond their material nature. For example, it’s impossible to separate a book from its content. But if this book is placed in a different context and interacts with other elements in space, it begins to expand its definition and brings it into relation with the site. I’m interested in the way classic literature—as a popular cultural reference--can interact with everyday elements, such as buildings and urban space. In my work, architecture and literature create hybrids that stand in the middle ground between the disciplines.”
Jimena Acosta, “Interview with Jorge Méndez Blake”. August 5th, 2009.
Jorge Méndez Blake was born in Guadalajara (Mexico) in 1974. Lives and works in Guadalajara.
In Mexico, exhibited in the Museo de Arte Moderno, Museo Tamayo, Museo Carrillo Gil, Museo Nacional de Arte, Fundación JUMEX, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Museo MARCO and Museo Cabañas, among other spaces. In an international level, exhibited at the Maison Rouge, Museo Mac/Val and the Instituto de Mexico in Paris; the Zacheta National Gallery in Varsovia; Casa Encendida in Madrid; Instituto Paranaense de Arte in Curitiba, among other spaces. Conducted artistic residences in Spain, England, Italy and United States. His work intertwines literature and architecture to reflect on fiction, history, the constructed context, landscape and design. Explores the uses and shapes of the "Library", in its architectural construction and in the organization of knowledge. Other works investigating libraries include La biblioteca de la exploración, La biblioteca del paisaje, La biblioteca Muro and La biblioteca Romeo y Julieta.