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Monument or Tribute?

I have mixed feelings when I read that 250,000 books are being brought to the London 2012 Festival, to form the walls of a maze. I’m intrigued – there is something essentially fascinating about mazes – but why do we need a temporary artwork to remind us of the power of thoughts and words? Surely books should be opened, their secrets revealed?

There is a hint of dry-stone wall in the pictures I find on-line, a beauty in its simple symmetry, but, even looking at photographs, I feel unsettled. There is also an air of abandonment. Monuments honour things of the past. Books are very much my present. And I am not sure I like seeing this volume being put to unintended use.      

Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo’s cite librarians and the novels of author Jorge Louis Borges as their inspiration. So they can’t be completely bad. Of their design, they say, “By participating in the installation, the audience discovers new textures, images and emotions. They become surrounded- hypnotized – by words and thoughts, designs and patterns. There appear to be secrets hidden in the installation’s walls.”

The installation (a word that leaves me cold, I’m afraid) will be on view at Southbank Centre London from July 31 to August 26. Make up your own mind. 

For myself, I am excited to watch ugly concrete slabs slowly emerge from the ruins of the Westcroft Centre, shaping the walls of what will become our new library come sports centre, with the admirable intent of cross-pollination; a holistic approach to health, catering for both body and mind. Genuinely a thing of beauty.  

PS: I went to visit the maze with a small friend. By then, an invitation to pick up books and read them had caused a few small avalanches necessitating amateurish repairs. With children running riot within its walls it was certainly a living thing, more of a ruin than a monument. I wasn’t hypnotised, and I didn’t discover secrets, but I did find find memories: a Guiness Book of Records from the year I was born; a girl guiding annual; a favourite novel. My friend’s verdict: “It’s not very big, is it?”