Bom: The notion of archive and found/collected material seems to be a recurrent idea in your works, especially in the Infinite Library. How has this process affected your general practice and this project in particular?
Cramer & Epaminonda: We both, in different ways, look at what’s there in the world around us. Both of us enjoy browsing through books – this is where The Infinite Library began. Haris loves to collect – vases, images and objects of all kinds of cultures and eras – and Daniel loves collections themselves, their particularities, especially when they’re incomplete or attempting the impossible.
Bom: The choice of books and images seems to focus mainly on a specific set of decades. Is there a particular reason for this selection?
Cramer & Epaminonda: For us, there are two main reasons why we focus more on books from certain periods. Firstly, it’s the quality of the paper, the printing, the original sources (Kodachrome, etc). Nowadays every printer tells you the same thing: ‘The quality of the paper is decreasing year by year.’ The other reason is the level of abstraction. A contemporary photograph is very close to today. A photograph from the 1980s is somehow connected to our childhoods. Older pictures have this feeling of coming from another time – although depicting what we can relate to, they remain quite abstract.
Bom: It seems that the title and the nature of the project alludes to Jorge Luis Borges’ work. Did you draw inspiration from his writings?
Cramer & Epaminonda: One of Borges’ short stories, The Garden of Forking Paths, describes a vast library filled with books with all the letters, punctuation and spacing organised randomly and without meaning. This library is made up of hexagonal rooms. Each room has walls full of shelves, mirrors and doors to the next rooms. Every day, people walk into the library to search for one specific room, somewhere deep inside the library, which is filled with books that give all possible answers – a room that’s never found. In a sense, one could say that The Infinite Library inverts this narrative. For us, it’s a liberating moment to open a book, written by an individual mind, and connect it with another, constructed by someone else. When these two poles come together, you establish an open conversation of fragments where a certain level of authorship still remains, but it acts within another structure: that of the newly created book. Each book is rebound and numbered.
Bom: Also, when considering your infinite library, I can't help but think of André Malraux's ideas, in particular the book trilogy Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale. There, within the layout, images are at times freed from a conventional historical association based on time and geography. Do you have any specific method or historical/chronological concerns when assembling the images and texts?
Cramer & Epaminonda: We have an extensive library of picture books that we collect. At times we sit down and look at them. We disassemble them, place them on the floor and test the individual pages. We rearrange pages, take out a few, add others from another book, and in the end come to a point where certain decisions form a new book. There’s no method; the only concern is to make the new book work as a book, visually, conceptually. It’s an intuitive process. On one occasion, we took all the pages from a book with the exception of one, and just showed this singular picture, framed on a wall. Another time, the content of the book led us to an installation consisting of a film, a slide projection and several images from other books in the space.
Bom: Is the idea of a virtual museum in the form of a book something you can relate to within this project? And what are your thoughts on the use of photographs (in this case found material) at a time when sight has never been so essential to our way of life but at the same time is so over-stimulated?
Cramer & Epaminonda: Perhaps a book is more like a space in which something can happen, comparable to an exhibition space. A museum has its own history and motives that we wouldn’t necessarily connect to a book. A book and a space have an outside and an inside. You’re right, there are so many images that there’s total over-stimulation. On the other hand, there are always stories to tell – with words, sounds and images. The fact that there’s an overload of information doesn’t influence the experience of a moment or a story.