‘The Infinite Library’ returns to national capital- The New Indian Express

‘The Infinite Library’ returns to national capital- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

When one enters the exhibit, an animated logo runs on the screen. A snake-like figure circles a wheel ceaselessly, appearing to devour its own tail in a swift motion. The movement, so hypnotic and unrelenting, looks like an unending loop that denotes the essence of infinity. A volunteer chimes in, cutting through these thoughts.

“What if libraries could expand and be infinite like this?” she asks. It piques the curiosity of viewers, luring them in with several questions on the ongoing exhibition ‘The Infinite Library’ at The National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy.

After a successful show at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan last year, the traveling installation has returned to Delhi again. However, this time, the edition is called The Infinite Library x Shadow Puppet Theatre. (The exhibition ends on August 31). It explores the history of moving pictures and animation in an interactive form of storytelling.

Aarushi Khanna, Project Coordinator, describes the exhibition as a vision to reimagine the future of libraries as interactive spaces. “Multimedia artist Mika Johnson, who serves as its creative director, developed the core concept. Inspired by The Library of Babel, it stands as an interactive space that engages onlookers with a multi-sensory form of storytelling and introduces Virtual Reality (VR) to establish an immersive connection between nature, heritage, and culture,” she says.

Anchored on Shadow Puppetry, the exhibit begins with an acknowledgment that a theatre is a carrier of knowledge systems. Years of storytelling through puppetry and plays have passed down history and traditions. Founder of Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, Anurupa Roy, has earlier curated episodes from mythologies such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata that trace this connection. Expert practitioner Gundurajuji, a ninth-generation master puppeteer of the leather shadow puppetry form, Togalu Gombeyata from Karnataka, helped bring it to life.

“Thousands of years ago, puppets were made with deer skin which would last for 5,000 years. The quality would be such that the colors on the piece – mainly red and black – would remain intact as it was centuries ago. Eventually, the hunters shifted to goat leather which would last for 1000 years. Puppets installed at the exhibition are from 400 years ago. It coincides well with the concept of The Infinite Library where such places are not just a collection of books, but a collection of knowledge in different forms of storytelling,” Roy says.

The puppet show gradually shifts to the installation of motion pictures that use butter paper and interesting use of light and shadow. As every section actively engages viewers with the concept, one depicts a traditional library with a QR code attached to the foot of each book on the shelves. It moves on to animation and eventually VR, which takes viewers on an immersive journey across the ocean. “We have applied broad themes for the VR as a medium.

For instance, one begins their journey in the story from a cave, which is used as an allegory here. The cave is a space where humanity began. The first humans were painted and inscribed on those walls. So that became the metaphor or the container for all the stories. It becomes infinite when there is a story within a story, a recurring trope in Indian storytelling styles,” explains Roy.

This year, the exhibit focuses on children. “The idea was to talk to younger people about accounts that are not singletrack.” For many visitors, the VR experience was a first. “The novelty of trying on a VR headset and entering alternative dimensions is a truly wonderful prospect,” says Abhyudai Dhawan, Coordinator of Public Relations and Communications, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan. Many visitors have left behind suggestions to expand the VR sub-libraries to include more traditional knowledge systems such as other famous mythologies and epochal events from history, Dhawan adds. After Germany, Ireland, the UK, Pakistan, and several cities in India, the next stop of the traveling library is Beijing.

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