24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86400 seconds.

As that final hour hit we knew we’d done it, we’d completed what we set out to accomplish so many months back. Our bodies had slowly deteriorated until we were unsure where we were anymore. 24 hours, 1440 minutes and 86400 seconds is the amount of time I was in the library on the 3rd May 2013. We arrived at 23:00PM that night and we began our performance 00.00AM on the dot. I realise now how naïve I was when I signed myself up for this because this has been one of the most challenging performances I’ve completed.

Upon arriving we set up our equipment, tested our ear pieces and prepared ourselves for 24 hours of intensity. As the countdown began to midnight we stood in our positions ready to begin our work. The one thing on my mind was that during the next 24 hours, everyone entering the building would be so oblivious to what they could possibly be a part of during that day.

Unfortunately we had to lose the projection and the sound that we had originally planned to have due to technical difficulties however it was only a scrap of what our idea was all about. The main concept of our work was to document a day in the library and collect words and conversations and type them up. During the times when this could not be done we would read from books related to how we personally were feeling, using other voices to voice ourselves.

We warned everyone of our presence with posters around the library and we also had information typed up for people to read to prevent them from starting a conversation with us.

‘BABEL: Lost Words’, University of Lincoln Library, 2013


‘Poster One’, Abigail Perry, 2013.


‘Poster Two’, Abigail Perry, 2013.

Tiredness crept in and it was a battle to stay awake which was expected. We prepared ourselves in any way we could and luckily the prep got us by. We arranged our time so that one person was always on their break for an hour, then we would swap round. Waking – Typing – Break. We were  able to get some footage of the 24 hour process which I have cut, edited and attached. The interesting thing about looking at this footage is the you can see how we were all affected by the tiredness.

We were acknowledged by almost everyone that entered the library and some had a look at what we were typing and the pages we had already created. Others were not so interested but that is to be expected. We were very lucky in that no one complained about the typewriter as it a very noisy contraption despite the sounds being far from irritating, but more musical.

At 23:30PM on the 4th May 2013, we packed the typewriter and cleared the desk and awaited our audience for the final element to our performance where we binded the book using the ribbons that we had worn around our neck through the entire process. We did this as a symbolic attempt to show how we all made the book and all went through the process together. We then walked with the book to the next floor of the library and placed the book amongst the rest of the history books. We chose history because that was exactly what the book is, a part of history. We have taken the library and placed it amongst history, that same history that is situated in the library. A paradox. An infinite paradox.

I would like to end this experience from the words of the man who was at the very beginning of our process, Borges, and how he states that “I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure”1 and so we like to think that now it has taken it’s place, our book will endure as long as the library itself does.

Perry, A (2013) Lincoln University 24 Hour Typewriting Challenge, Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p6ILmwGN7I&feature=youtu.be

  1. Borges, J. L (2000) The Library of Babel, New Hampshire: David R. Godine []
Posted: May 10th, 2013
Categories: Babel: Lost Words, Borges, Library
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

© 2018 Babel. Hosted by University of Lincoln Blogs.