final work / interactive book concept / Borges’ Labyrinths

To wrap up the work presented on this blog, my final presented video mockup of the concept:

Borges’ Labyrinths on Vimeo. (c) Fiona Learned 2011.

The other main component of this project was the promotional and concept work, much of it contained in this blog.

Presenting this work to my project supervisor and assessment panel wrapped up my degree in Visual Communication at UTS (with First Class Honours!).

PS. Thanks for the link! (That’s what happens when you upload a video to Vimeo then forget all about it…)

PPS. I’m keen to keep blogging about some of the ideas I come across on this topic; and maybe also a bit on projects and their genesis. Stay tuned!

WIP – almost getting there

This is the video of a bit more than half of the final presentation! Hopefully that is. Worked on the sound the last two days with the helpful Messrs Davies and Kirsop.

Please watch and give feedback and comments. What do you think?
(If you have an iPad please also watch it and let me know what you think!!)

(There are known issues with pauses and timing – I need to tighten this up in the next week.)

(There are also other known issues with my hands. Mein ganglion is rather anti social at the moment. )

hexagonal ident – in motion

Foraying back into animating in AfterEffects is easier than I imagined, compared to the unexpected pain of installing and wrangling the sparkly new (and slightly buggy) Digital Publishing Suite in InDesign CS5.5…

Working on some drafts of how the ident might look on the initial screen for the book/app, before you transition to the menu or main text.

This is the unembellished version – still tweaking layers and timing to get it expanding smoothly. Thoughts?

This is a thought of how it might overlay on one of the images I’m using in the main body of the book/app.

More to do. Need to do some more work with gradual and partially animated transitions for the main screens, and I plan to do another 2 today and more than 3 tomorrow.

continuing identity experiments

I think we’re approaching something potentially awesome here: 

Or in Garamond:

Blocked out text (still in Elephant typeface and Garamond) with hexagons incorporated. I think the opacity is doing some really interesting things visually, and also alludes to the elusive nature of the meaning of the story.





visual identity for the project

I usually find it quite hard to begin with a cohesive visual identity for a project and not feel tied to a brand or identity that might no longer suit the project. Previous thoughts on title pages or brand are in this post.

More iterations on an identity for the book, thinking about a symbol that might work and a font selection that could be cohesive across the entire book.

Experimenting with hexagons and suggestions of the infinite through repetition.



I think this is my current favourite: suggestive hexagons with Didot font.

Thinking about how it might look in color, and in a more Faber & Faber style:

(too James Bond?)

Thoughts? Which is the strongest? What is working and failing miserably?

representing the universe

Nick Risinger is responsible for the Photopic Sky Survey, a huge photograph of the entire night sky, as we see it. 

You can zoom in and out off the image, around the galaxy, showing planets and constellations and a crazy amount of detail. Where you would expect to see black… there are hundreds of stars. 

Interestingly, as Louie Giglio points out, the Milky Way that we can see from Earth, is only a fraction of our universe. How does one even imagine such hugeness? 


The image is Creative Commons so I might use it in my final project. I’m fascinated by the image, and gentle but perspective shifting manipulations of it.

hexagons: why?

I suppose, dear blog reader, that you might be wondering why hexagons are so prevalent in The Library of Babel. I am still curious myself. They are the building blocks for the whole library, the construction of the universe. Perhaps because they tesselate endlessly, perhaps for no other reason than a random choice. The ‘galleries’ of the Library, containing all of the books in the universe, are hexagonal in shape:

“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances.”

-Jorge Luis Borges

Imagining what shape this library must take is quite mind boggling, and seemingly impossible, or unimaginable (hence the title of my project: the infinite unimaginable). Some however – architects, engineers, mathematicians (Hayes 2009), those unable to leave enigmas unexplored – have devoted time to figuring out the structure, and even, indeed, the air circulation and location of load bearing pillars!


Within the Library, there is talk of a “the books in the Crimson Hexagon: books whose format is smaller than usual, all-powerful, illustrated and magical…” Borges’ ‘universe library’ is interesting in its absolute confusion. I was musing yesterday on the title’s inclusion of ‘Babel’ and yet the fact is that the word cannot be found anywhere within the story… In another short story, Borges’ protagonist asks:

In a riddle whose answer is time, what word is prohibited?’

-The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges. JL

In a story about _____________ what word is prohibited? The library contains all the books and languages and stories about the whole universe – if anything can be said or imagined, it is and must be contained in the library. And yet there is a stark lack of literary content – no quotes from books save to point out the impervious nature of the letters (or orthographic symbols) contained within. The letters and books appear to obstruct meaning, rather than communicate it. (Is the story about Babel? language? stories?…). As Lisa Block de Behar points out, perhaps the significant literary lack of the library can be justified in a similar way. Borges seems more concerned with the architecture and structure of the library than the books it contains.

by Karl Kempf

The origin of the library is unknown, as is its creator, as is the purpose of the ‘librarians’ existence (Piper, P. 2001). How can the author speak of hope? Is this the allusion to the human condition, scattered at Babel and unable to understand the universe we live in, language obscuring rather than revealing “humanities basic mysteries – the origin of the Library and of time” (Borges, 1959).


Block de Behar, L. 2001, The Place of the Library, Latin American Literary Review, Jul-Dec 2001, 29:58,  pp. 55-72.

Hayes, B. Books-A-Million (‘The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel’), American Scientist, 97:1, Jan-Feb 2009, p.78-79, book review.

Piper, P. 2001, ‘For Jorge Luis Borges, Paradise Was Not a Garden but a Library’, American Libraries, August 2001, pp.56-58.



Babel: discovering layers of symbolism

Part of my thesis (read: idea/argument) for the development of my project is that ‘The Library of Babel’ by Borges requires such extensive knowledge of other texts to fully appreciate and understand it, that the text is prohibitive to readers who would benefit from understanding the story.

Lets start with ‘Babel’ – the word is not referred to in the rest of the story, and yet has pride of place in the title. What does it refer to?

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9That is why it was called Babel[c]because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

The Bible, Genesis 11:1-9 (my emphasis added)

Ironically in the story, the very thing that the people do to not ‘be scattered over the face of the whole earth’, leads to them being scattered over the whole earth.

The themes I think it pulls out in Borges’s story are –

  • the confusion of language and misunderstanding (the translators tell us ‘Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused’),
  • the fruitlessness of man’s attempts to control/understand/shape the universe, and
  • the reference to the divine intervention/origin of the library,
  • the importance of language in our lives.
Any thoughts? Any key concepts and readings on the Tower of Babel I should do?

Borgian labyrinth imagery in Doctor Who – Part 1

An article by L..A. Murillo (1959) discusses the idea of the labyrinth presented in the work of Jorge Luis Borges, and in reading this article, I noticed a lot of parallels with recent plots and settings in the remake of Doctor Who. This is a cumulating collection of Doctor Who labyrinth imagery and/or metaphors as described by Murillo, referring to the works of Borges.

Murillo suggests that  “each of Borges’ stories contains one or several variations of the labyrinth theme. In The Aleph it is not overly difficult to make out the nucleus of images that Borges uses for the labyrinth: the plan of a city, the sands of the desert, a spider web, a flaming pyre, and the dream state…”
(‘The Labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges’, 1959)

Russel T Davies and Gareth Roberts use the metaphor of the sands of the desert when creating a planet that is entirely sand dunes (2009, ‘Planet of the Dead’, 4:15)

Interestingly, they also work in the labyrinthine city image – the planet used to be a thriving metropolis-planet in the past: 

The most relevant example for this project is ‘The Silence in the Library’ story arc (2008, Steven Moffat) which imagined a planet entirely composed of books – called ‘The Library‘. The darkness lurking there and recalls Murillo’s associations of the labyrinth with the fear of death and the helplessness of man (p.266, 1959). The plot recalls the original labyrinth myth in the terrifying beast/destroyer lurking in the library and the apparent inability to escape, but for the maker of the labyrinth – the character whose family created The Library is the one who possesses the knowledge to let them escape.

In another interesting layer, it also recalls Borges’ Babel in the sidelined role of humans within the library, and the search to find out what is at the heart of the library and discover its purpose to decipher it. Characters are ‘saved’ or ‘consumed’ (depending on your viewpoint and understanding of labyrinth stories) by both the character at the centre of the library (Cal) and also the ‘beast’ (the Vashta Nerada). 

More to come!

Reference List:

Murillo, L.A. 1959, ‘The Labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges: An introductory to the stories of The Aleph’, Modern Language Quarterly, 20:3 , pp.259-266.

All images from the television series Doctor Who, episodes indicated.
Screen caps from