A labyrinth of a library

Books waiting to be added to the maze

Books waiting to be added to the maze

If you were to stop by Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall this past weekend, you would have observed quite a strange sight—over 250,000 books in boxes, eclectic piles, orderly stacks, or even just strewn across the floor. Over the next 4 days, though, the books were arranged into something much more recognizable (though perhaps not at all less bewildering)—walls.

The project is called aMAZEme, and indeed, the art display is essentially a giant maze made out of second hand books, as part of a larger poetic celebration of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The maze (or, more accurately, labyrinth) is to be formed in the shape of Borges’ fingerprint and is intended to confront the audience with “new textures, images, and emotions… [to] stimulate their curiosity, knowledge, and creativity.” The books used are all secondhand donations from charities and publishing houses throughout the UK, which is why Healthy Planet got involved in the project and became a supporting partner.

Go team!

Go team! My badge

All of the above was enough to interest me in volunteering for aMAZEme, so last Friday I found myself at the Royal Festival Hall ready to help the cause. Along with the other volunteers, I helped sort books into hardcover piles and paperback piles, and then began stacking these books strategically in order to form the walls of the maze. Although progress seemed slow that early on in the project, these thousands of books now tower up to 3 meters high.

What I find most moving about this project is how differently each member of the audience will perceive or experience it. Children and adults alike will enjoy meandering through the maze of books, whether or not they actually have a particular love of reading (but hopefully they do!). The celebration of Jorge Borges delivers a more profound implication for those who have an affinity for this famous writer or for Argentine literature in general.

Leaf found in book from 1908!

Leaf found in book from 1908!

Environmentalists might, like Healthy Planet, appreciate the fun and unique way books have been reused in the construction. Art lovers will surely comprehend some deeper meaning behind it than I was able to pick up, and lovers of mythology will have a field day if the Minotaur head that I saw on the sidelines makes any appearance. Personally, as a lover of reading, I was constantly distracted by the books themselves. I even came across a small hymnal gifted to someone in 1908, which had a remarkably preserved pressed leaf inside. See the rest of my photos on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/healthyplanetorg/sets/72157630819923620/

Who knows what else is hiding within those walls? If you get the chance, check out the display at the Royal Festival Hall in Southbank Centre!

To learn more about the aMAZEme project, visit their event website at http://festival.london2012.com/events/9000965121.

Ps: Here’s what the maze looked like when it was finished!

Completed maze

Completed maze

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