Not really being able to continue slumbering in the Bucharest tropical clime, I stumbled upon All the World’s Memory (via the the great blog of @TheFunambulist_), demonstrating that libraries or just simple reading spaces can be cool, shady and generous places. Even more than that, they can be huge places of slow digestion, like the entrails of a huge snake with serpentine bowl movements, ready to engulf every new piece of information.
He covered this architectonic as well as the Borgesian dimensions of this 20m movie about incredible knowledge carceri so I won’t go into that.
I highly recommend this small meandering, mis-en-abime travel through the entrails of huge archives, immense parking libraries with countless book/magazine/manuscript knowledge repositories that keep on growing both under and aboveground. Resnais thus tackles one of the most dry subjects, dust filled rooms that can be presented in a documentarist way without downplaying the unsettling and uncanny materiality of it.
As we grow weary of the idea of the archives, as we hear more and more about archival fevers, we started (or I started) developing allergies not against dust mites but against the automatic acceptance of the programatic archive, obligatory archival procedures supported by foundations – as temples of lost data.
What I like is the immense organismic organisation this movie reveals as well as the huge utopian promise of final future bliss. And taking the metaphor ahead over here in Romania one ends up with catastrophically stranded books or the institutions hosting them, imploded libraries (the neoliberal disposal of the unnecessary or un-retrievable data) where all registration is rendered asunder, where the central brain or planning (also present in the movie) tabulation is now just an anonymous stamp or a blank number on a cover, a cryptic sign on a page, some unrecoverable keywords etc.. The whole classification, bibliotechonomy has become occult – I realized. Even the names of the libraries are occult, the institutions, the building have disappeared, changed names, been closed down. All the factory libraries, the regional, local dispersed knowledge has been discontinued, fragmented and cut off from the initial spaces, lecture rooms and the systematic hamstering has been abandoned. Knowledge is beyond even the pale of greedy capitalist outsourcing. But there is yet (we believe) immense potential in these disembowled knowledges. The remains that litter our world end up in amazing juxtapositions, strange and uncomfortable proximities and spontaneous classification order arise in their midst.
Books become strange flatmates and even stranger bed mates in Romania. This potential was already there, as the movie shows, in the biggest and most ordered knowledge accumulations, when a manuscript or a rare discovery might prepare to jump out at you, slowly reach out and grab you.