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Learning diary Active Learning from experience

6 word, thousand of stories Analysing practice in Graphic Arts

Library of Babel

Tuesday September 24th Today my master course is officially started. This is my first year at the University of West of the England, the first in the UK, the first far from home. I can say, now, that this radical change of context and situations, has strongly influenced the outcome I have achieved, and brought with him new challenges. The purpose of this reflective diary is to record all meaningful developments and evolutions of the project in progress, sometimes they are rough, sometimes confused and others more precise. The aim is double faced: firstly, It is a usefull tool to read in mind what is worthy to be examined in depth and what to be abandoned, and secondly, it improve the possibility to learn from the experience lived, to memorise mistakes and achievements and to personalise the pursued research.

The project The Brief: The Ma Leader, Stephen Monger, introduced us contents and objectives of the module. This project will involve us for the next 12 weeks. The beginning point of this project is the analysis and the examination of a text written by an argentinian poet, Jean Louis Borges, lived in the past century. He is famous for his ability to symbolize the reality trough metaphysic stories. The text taken in exam is called “the Library of Babel”. Our interpretation has to be free and personal, and the final elaboration has to be strong and supported by evidence of work and a large range of experimentations.

For the next time it is requested to read the text carefully, to underline keywords and lines that we consider worth to be discussed in class and examined in depth by ourselves. Personal impression: I will dedicate all the morning to read it carefully and trying to understand better how achievable and hard is what the brief asks. Before starting I just glanced some websites to know better the author, who, honestly, I have never heard about before. With my surprise (sorrow for my neverending ignorance) the research has been easy and enjoyable, effectively, he is really famous and esteemed by literature lovers, writers and common readers. About the author: Jorge Louis Borges:“(1889-1986) A giant in Latin American letters. Borges was a poet, story writer and essayist. His short fiction was renowned for the rich and fantastical imagery. The University of Cuyo awarded him the National Prize for Literature and an honorary doctorate. In 1961, Jorge Luis Borges (along withSamuel Beckett) was awarded the Prix Formentor. Some argue that Jorge Luis Borges continued the fabulist tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. His own influence can be seen on the interextuality characteristic of Latin-American Literature by such pivotal figures as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortázar. Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899. His family had a comfortable middle-class family. At the precocious age of nine, a journal in Buenos Aires published Jorge Luis Borges’s Spanish translation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. Borges’s father (a failed writer by his sons admission) had a vast library, which inspired Jorge Luis Borges’s literary aspirations. Jorge Luis Borges read in both Spanish and English before he was a teenager. His mother also had literary interests and translated the works of the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne into Spanish. The Borges family moved to Switzerland in 1914. In part, the family moved to seek treatment for Borges’s father who had a degenerative eye condition. This degenerative condition would also afflict Jorge Luis Borges in his later life. Jorge Luis Borges continued his education in Switzerland. Borges added French and German to his linguistic repetoire.

In 1918. Borges was awarded a baccalauréat from the College de Geneve. This diploma indicated that Borges was prepared for university studies. Due to the political instability in Argentina, the family remained in Europe in 1921. They traveled throughout both Switzerland and Spain. During this period, Jorge Luis Borges studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Gustav Meyrink Guillaume Apollinaire, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Borges became a member of the Ultraist movement in addition to making the acquaintance of Ramon Gomez de la Serna and Rafael Cansinos Assens. Jorge Luis Borges and is family returned to Buenos Aires in 1921. Borges lacked an extensive formal education and few qualifications for employment. He wrote surrealist poems and literary essays that were published in journals. In 1923, Jorge Luis Borges published Fervor de Buenos Aires. This was his first collection of poetry. Within nine years of his return to Argentina, Nestor Ibarra had crowned Borges as the “Great Apostle of Criollismo.” Many see one of the projects of Borges’s work is to express his particular form of regionalism. Jorge Luis Borges’s work turned to address existential and phenomenological issues in a more direct way. At this time, Borges was influenced by the work ofMartin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl and Jean-Paul Sartre. Starting in 1931, Jorge Luis Borges was a regular contributor Sur, edited by Victoria Ocampo. In 1933, Borges became an editor for the newspaper Critica’s literary supplement. His style from this period was characterized as irreal. Borges expresses some of nature of irreality when describing a recurring nightmare: “I dream of a mirror. I see myself with a mask, or I see in the mirror somebody who is me but whom I do not recognize as myself. I arrive at a place, and I have the sense of being lost and that all is horrible. The place itself is like any other. It is a room, with furniture, and its appearance is not horrible. What is atrocious is the feeling, not the images. Another frequent nightmare is of being attacked by beings who are children; there are many of them, very little but strong. I try to defend myself, but the blows I give are weak”. Many argue that Jorge Luis Borges El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan(published in 1941) represented the first hypertext. As Jorge Luis Borges eyesight began to fail, he had difficulty working as a writer. He began to lecture publicly to supplement his income. Once he became totally blind his mother acted as his secretary. Later in life, Borges would explain his blindness by saying, “…in a certain way there is a purification in the blindness. It purifies one of visual circumstances. Circum-stances are lost, and the external world, which is always trying to grab us, becomes fainter.” In his new public role, at the Argentine Association of English Culture appointed Borges as Professor of English and American literature, and Argentine Society of Writers appointed him as President. In the fifties, Borges also began to compose screenplays. His screenplays include Los Orilleros, El Paraíso de los Creyentes, and Invasión. Starting in 1956 and lasting until his death, Borges was an instructor at the University of Buenos Aires. This was also the year he was appointed the Director of the National Library. However, when Juan Peron returned to power, Borges resigned his position. Politically, Jorge Luis Borges was against Peronism,Marxism and Communism. Jorge Luis Borges died in Geneva in 1986. He was suffering from liver cancer. Jorge Luis Borges translated the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka,Hermann Hesse, Joseph Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, Andre Gide, Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf. Borges was also known for literary hoaxes. Writings in the style of authors such as Emanuel Swedenborg published under the names of another author. Even Borges legitimate translations have been accused of having extensive manipulation and liberties taken with them. His literary enterprises included imagining and reviewing works that do not exist. The most noted piece is Borges “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” In this work, Borges imagines an author who creates/ re-creates the work of Miguel de Cervantes. The mercurial nature of the work of Jorge Luis Borges impacted the production of literature worldwide. Borges’s ability to make the text aware of itself marked him as one of the preeminent writers of the twentieth century, especially in developing a new post-modern sensibility.” (source “European graduate

I am lost in searching more and more details about him, I am enjoying to spend more time than what I predicted to skim some his short stories. I am excited now to read this last written that will involve me more than ever before. The Library of Babel After few lines, and many more minutes I understood that it will be a long morning. I will need a good vocabulary to help me to understand the meaning of this text, so, hands on a new sketch-book ready to be filled of brainstormings, notes and confused sparks; eyes on a dictionary (borrowed from the library); different colours pencils on the table and a large cup of coffee. The first approach is tiring, the reading-flow is interrupted because I often have to consult the dictionary. Words and meanings are archaic, and make me remind my five years studying classic Latin at the high school. Many roots of words are similar and easily understandable, others not, and other simply never heard in the common spoken english. To summarise, the tale is a metaphor of the Universe, that is identified like an immense library, composed by an almost infinite of hexagonal rooms where inside long shelves of books are disposed. Each book contains, in order, sets of letters and symbols that combined again give shape to al the texts that the human kind have never known. The man is the journeyer who travels inside the library, between shelves and spiral stairways. The aim of the travel of each existent human is to look for the divine’s Word, that is believed being hidden among the pages of the infinite number of the library. “This thinker observed that all the books, no matter how diverse they might be, are made up of the same elements: the space, the period, the comma, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet.” Writing means combining letters, letters already written. However, all knowledges and written pieces already exists. Text analysis – brain storming and flow of inputs Terms correlated to “Death”: trip finished; falling; dusty; intangible; eternal state of suspension. Terms correlated to “Life”: travel; change of position; movement; motion; discovery; solid; reduced; short.

5 shelves x 35 books x 410pages x 40 lines x 80 symbols Paradoxical insertion of terms like unconceivable; reasonable; doubt. presented like negative words, when all the tale is a fiction. Words correlated to Man: perceive; reasonable; erude;

wavering; Fallible; traveller; dying out. God: illuminated; solitary; elegant; delicate; perfect; motionless; ab aeterno. The library depends on the audience, if users (human species in this case) extinguish it remains useless. Man

first librarian


Fiction, exagon, allucination, metaphysic, truth, universe, library. Every man is always the centre of his own world-library-room-travel. Free associations and reflections: 1)What is the aim of a library? “making people read and preserving documents” (Unesco) or “conceal from the public” (Umberto Eco, italian writer author of “In nome della Rosa”, a book about the world of libraries in the middage, and Italo Calvino). 10 March 1981, in the “Grechetto” room, Milan, in occasion of the cerimony of the 25th birthday of the Library if Milan, Umberto Eco ,. about the function of libraries and what is expected by the public. Here

a catalogue of negative points that any library that wants to keep far readers and public has to follow A.I cataloghi devono essere divisi al massimo: deve essere posta molta cura nel dividere il catalogo dei libri da quello delle riviste, e questi da quello per soggetti, nonché i libri di acquisizione recente dai libri di acquisizione più antica. Possibilmente l’ortografia, nei due cataloghi (acquisizioni recenti ed antiche) deve essere diversa; per esempio nelle acquisizioni recenti retorica va con un t, in quella antica con due t; Chajkovskij nelle acquisizioni recenti col Ch, mentre nelle acquisizioni antiche alla francese, col Tsch. B.I soggetti devono essere decisi dal bibliotecario. I libri non devono portare, come hanno preso una pessima abitudine ora i volumi americani, nel colophon un’indicazione circa i soggetti sotto cui debbono essere elencati. C.Le sigle devono essere intrascrivibili, molte, in modo che chiunque riempia la scheda non abbia mai posto per mettere l’ultima denominazione e la ritenga irrilevante, in modo che poi l’inserviente gliela possa restituire perché sia ricompilata. D.Il tempo tra richiesta e consegna dev’esser molto lungo. E.Non bisogna dare più di un libro alla volta. F.I libri consegnati dall’inserviente perché richiesti su scheda non possono essere portati

in sala consultazione, cioè bisogna dividere la propria vita in due aspetti fondamentali, uno per la lettura e l’altro per la consultazione, cioè la biblioteca deve scoraggiare la lettura incrociata di pi ù libri perché provoca strabismo. G.Deve esserci possibilmente assenza totale di fotocopiatrici; comunque, se ne esiste una, l’accesso dev’essere molto lungo e faticoso, la spesa superiore a quella della cartolibreria, i limiti di copiatura ridotti a non più di tre pagine. H.Il bibliotecario deve considerare il lettore un nemico, un perdigiorno (se no sarebbe a lavorare), un ladro potenziale. I.Quasi tutto il personale deve essere affetto da limitazioni fisiche. Io sto toccando un punto molto delicato, su cui non voglio fare nessuna ironia. È compito della società dare possibilità e sbocchi a tutti i cittadini, anche quelli che non sono nel pieno dell’età o nel pieno delle loro condizioni fisiche. Però la società ammette che, per esempio, nei vigili del fuoco occorra operare una particolare selezione. Ci sono delle biblioteche di campus americani dove la massima attenzione è rivolta ai frequentatori handicappati: piani inclinati, toilette specializzate, tanto

da rendere perigliosa la vita agli altri, che scivolano sui piani inclinati. Tuttavia certi lavori all’interno della biblioteca richiedono forza e destrezza: inerpicarsi, sopportare grandi pesi eccetera, mentre esistono altri tipi di lavoro che possono essere proposti a tutti i cittadini che vogliono sviluppare un’attività lavorativa, malgrado limitazioni dovute all’età o ad altri fatti. Quindi sto ponendo il problema del personale di biblioteca come qualcosa molto più affine al corpo dei vigili del fuoco che al corpo degli impiegati di una banca, e questo è molto importante, come vedremo dopo. J.L’ufficio consulenza dev’essere irraggiungibile. K.Il prestito dev’essere scoraggiato. L.Il prestito interbibliotecario impossibile, in ogni caso deve prender mesi, in ogni caso deve esistere l’impossibilit à di conoscere cosa

ci sia nelle altre biblioteche. M.In conseguenza di tutto questo i furti devono essere frequentissimi [“rarissimi” nel testo originale. N.d.R.]. N.Gli orari devono assolutamente coincidere con quelli di lavoro, discussi preventivamente coi sindacati: chiusura assoluta di sabato, di domenica, la sera e alle ore dei pasti. Il maggior nemico della biblioteca è lo studente lavoratore; il migliore amico è Don Ferrante, qualcuno che ha una biblioteca in proprio, quindi che non ha bisogno di venire in biblioteca e quando muore la lascia in eredit à. O.Non deve essere possibile rifocillarsi all’interno della biblioteca in nessun modo, e in ogni caso non dev’essere possibile neanche rifocillarsi all’esterno della biblioteca senza prima aver depositato tutti i libri che si avevano in consegna, in modo da doverli poi richiedere dopo che si è preso il caffè. P.Non dev’essere possibile ritrovare il proprio libro il giorno dopo. Q.Non deve esser possibile sapere chi ha in prestito il libro che manca. R.Possibilmente, niente latrine.”

Beauty demands audience: “Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species -- the unique species -- is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.” Music pretends aware hears; Dishes pretend delicate palate; A painting pretends beholder eyes; watch?v=zX54DIpacNE “better out than in” provovative project by Bansky relation between art and public etc...

Happiness/Angst/Hope happiness is the revelation of the library as total (?) “When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope. “ -depression is the impossibility to access to the Truth -hope is the possibility to search the truth -hope is also the sensation of infinity “I have just written the word ``infinite.’’ I have not interpolated this adjective out of rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end which is absurd. Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope”. “As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable.”



“The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter.” Writing like building, letters like bricks, texts like modular structures. Writing means combining again and again words and letters like a game where we have all pieces on the table and we can find many combinations and shapes.

1-Words and imagination vs images and communication Every man can write and tempt to decode the Truth. Borges provides an explanation to the fact that any man must not pretend to invent nothing new, nothing is possible if it is not contemplated inside the Library. This notion agrees with the argument of the choice and anguish. If writing means blending letters with mastery, the man is safe from the sensation of “angst” described by Kierkergaard, because he would have a limited range of possibilities. The possibility of knowing the truth is limited, so, achievable for the man.

Dada; Merz words as shapes. shapes as words

2-“to speak is to fall in tautology” (Magritte) Semiotics, meaning and words. This is subject that always deserves a certain fascination by myself. I always looks for new ways to communicate concepts and thoughts. According to what main theorist of semiotics say, everything means something else, the correspondence between object and meaning is variable, it changes and depends on who is the listener and who the teller. That is what, in short, the semiotics tells. The fathers of the most important theories about semiotics are Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), Peirce (1839-1914 and Umberto Eco (1932), all linguists who dedicated most of their time to study “not only, what we refer to as ‘signs’ in everyday speech, but of anything which ‘stands for’ something else”. An important painting that probably bring those studies to be really considered is the one of Magritte (1929), “The Betrayal of images”, “The text beneath the painting is neither true nor false. it is not the physical reality of a pipe, it is a representation of a “pipe”, a painting of a pipe, a signifier for “pipe” but not a pipe itself” (Visible Signs, David Crow).

It might be interesting to explore the correspondence between words and images, when more words mean the same image and reverse.

ges a m i 0 =10 D R O W ds. 1 r o w 0 10 image=

After a couple of days spent struggling how to summarize all those contents, contents that I consider worthy but at the same time still abstracts. On this time, I have decided that what I really want is to experiment, to take risks. I really want to do something that I have never got the nerve to do before. Initially, the plan was to design a book aimed to threat the correspondence between words and images. Like a match between two teams, on one side I would have discussed when using words was better than using images and reverse. Coming back: Reading again the reflections and documents collected till now, I wonder what is the point that affects me most? What is really the hearth of the problem? I feel quite interesting the argumentations about the man’s condition in relation with the sensation of Angst (Kierkegaard 1821), happiness and hope. The author’s vision suggests that it depends on the possibility to gain the knowledge, knowledges always described by symbols and letters. Series of posters made for the concert in homage of Bethoven. Project by J. Svendsen.

My question: Is any truth that the man deserves to know, reachable troughout the use of words? So, do all truths are contained within the library? The answer (personal and contestable) is:”No!”. I am thinking about all the memories that we have regard to images, paintings, photos and the music. There are worths that never could have been handed down by words. How would I describe the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo with words? It is probably possible, and this is what Art books do, but they need picture to enrich the text, and describing artworks only with words, they could never evoke the exact same emotions. How would you describe what you feel when you are transported by the power of a song? Most of songs have a written text, of course, but only together with the sound they start really to live. Musics are written on the pentagram, but in a silent word they would count nothing. If the library contains only words and letters, there should be somewhere else outside the library’s walls, a place where travelers go when they are looking for knowledges not gainable by words. To continue the metaphor of Borges, I imagine a city that surrounds all the Library, this is the city of Visual and Performing Arts, a city that, like the library is for the literature, it is an immense archive for all the figurative or musical contents that man needs along his existence.

Here I am coming back to the subject of semiotics, that I have mentioned before exploring the correspondence between a word and his meaning translated in images. When I read a book, without any illustration my mind is free to imagine landscapes, characters and details, my mind is free and different interpretations are unlimited. This is surely good when a writer wants to involve his reader making his mind travel, but it reveals less convenient when the writer wants to communicate exactly the same picture to any reader. Instead, a picture can quickly give a set of meanings well defined by the choice of colors and style.

Archive + personal interpretations + word/meaning/image Risk + exploration + unusual medium and process If I read the same book that spmeone else is reading, is the world that appears in his mind line after line the same? No. It will change, because of his cultural background, his knowledges, his phantasy etc... Ok, but, how different? I mean, how many different “old stairs” there might be? Let’s discover it!

(Anything is fine)

6 words, thousand of stories project in progress “Images VS Words” Nationality

Your name or nickname

What happens if I ask to people to draw what appears in his mind after having read the same word?


Hi, for starters, thank you in advance for your time. Here it is asked to answer totally freely. No taboo, no judges, just have fun and take your time. Please, answer sketching whatever appears in your mind when I tell you... Door



The process: 1-prepare 6 (is a good number) words, abstracts and not; 2-prepare a test, cleaned, clear; 3-prepare a sheet to ask them a feedback; 4-find a title for the project; 5-test it with friends; 6-make a Facebook page; 7-make a blog; 8-find people; 9-be insistent, involving and friendly; 10-objective 90 tests filled out; 11-scan all tests; 12-prepare files-jpegs; 13-cut them for six words; 14-publish on Facebook; 15-request friendship to participants; 16-promote. Diary:



Make it leave from one point to the other one



25th nov Hands on 30 sheets, 30 interviews for random people. let’s start. 1st step: Watershed. This is the Cafe of centre of experimental media, it seems perfect to have a good start. I guess that here there wil be people interested in art, and experimentations, so, they might welcome my tempt, without make me feel a “door-to door salesman”.

6 words, thousand of stories Would you like to leave your impressions? Any tip or food for tough is more than welcome!

Wo An

Did you enjoy this unusual test?


THANK YOU! In conclusion, if you are curious to see all drawings I will collect around Bristol, can you leave me any your contact (facebook or twitter or email...)?

In conc leave m

6 words, thousand of stories Would you like to leave your impressions? Any tip or food for tough is more than welcome!

Wo An

Did you enjoy this unusual test?


1am I am waiting for my coffee to take time. i can see around me people having lunch, reading and talking. The athmosphere is enough relaced. At the next table there is this boy with a red coat, he is drinking a tea and reading a tea. He is probably a student. 2pm I cannot find the nerve to start. The guy is still there, and my pile of sheets too, still white. I have my second coffee finished. 3 pm I have finally found the ourage and it’s been easy and funny. The boy (Josh) was highly interested in the project and told me he found the heading (6 words, thousands of stories) inspiring. I have my first interview, the firstone of a long series! After a whole afternoon spent in the cafe, I have now 15 tests, barely conquered. Actually, I expected to find people more open and less suspicious, but fortunately, who letted me explain the project found it enjoyable and interesting. Some of them spent more than 30 mins to fill it out. Now I am really on, excited and encouraged by the amount of positive comments left by interviewed people. 26th and 27th nov I am in Rome now, I have gathered 20 interviews from friends and strangers. 28th nov This morning, with other sheet in my hands, I have tried to interview people sitting inside the MacDonalds of Bedminster. I neither hope to success in my tempt, instead, with my surprise, 3 women and a man interviewed did not reject me. They accepted to give me more than 5 minutes to draw the 6 words. In addition I have been walking along north street to gather other tests. The day finishes with 20 interviews more. 29th nov Arnolfini Bar: 4 guys interviewed, they enjoyed it, but they were suspicious to leve me their contact. Mshed: 2 old ladies, 2 grandmothers looking after their grandsons. Interested but they were a bit distracted by their kids. Cafe Kiosk-the waitress, she was bored, so she found is a funny distraction. Fruit Kiosk: he was excited but ashamed for being not good at drawing, 15 mins to draw, tough he was stood up. Along the street and inside the old Market. At the end of today I have 25 tests more. 30th novenber University, Bower Ashton and Frenchay. Here everybody was happy to do it, anyone sospicious, everybody left me their contact. Pescara A friend of mine (who owned me a favour) has printed the file in his place and he made my job for one day. He has interviewed 20 people in Pescara, Abbruzzo, Italy. 1st December Last ones gathered along the street between Bristol city center

The deadline is close, I would pursue the experiment but it is time to make a point. The outcomes are stunning, 91 differents phobia, cups, lions, doors, noses and lines. All of them tells a story, every sketch has meaned having met someone who did not expected to be so good at draw. There is no bad when you draw freely.


1 9 : l ota

l i f s test

t u o led


The Facebook fanpage

Bibliography: - The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, William Weaver (Translator) - A Theory of Semiotics by Umberto Eco - Ways of Seeing by John Berger -Six Memos For The Next Millennium by Italo Calvino -Visible Signs by David Crow -The Rhetoric of Morality and Philosophy. by Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus -Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard, Walter Lowrie (Translator) -This is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault, René Magritte (Illustrator), James Harkness (Editor, Translator) -Manuale di semiotica by Ugo Volli GLF editori Laterza, 2003 -The art of looking sideways by Fletcher A [2001]

-Words and Pictures Blake Q [2000] 6wordsthousandsofstories.wordpress

Sitography: -Semiotics for beginners: gallery/2013/jan/05/kurt-schwitters-collages-tatebritain#/?picture

Ottavia Tracagni Ma Graphic Arts-2012/2013 Module: Analysing practice in Graphic Arts Module’s leader: Stephen Monger University of the West of England

Learning Journal_6 words, thousands of stories