ABOUT

The Infinite Library seeks to embed human stories within a much grander narrative, one which includes the birth of our planet and the evolution of all life forms.

“If a library can be something as simple as an organized collection of texts, then libraries massively pre-date books in the history of culture. Every country has a tradition of legends, parables, riddles, myths and chants that existed long before they were written down. Warehoused as memories, these texts passed from generation to generation through dance, gesture and word of mouth.”
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STUART KELLS
The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, 2017

THE
REALMS

Within The Infinite Library, you will discover smaller virtual spaces, each dedicated to a unique knowledge system. Learn more by clicking on their symbols below.

LIBRARY OF SHADOWS


Togalu gombeyaata in Karnataka, India

The Library of Shadows is a VR experience devoted to South Indian shadow puppetry. Click on INTRO to read a short text about this experience, GALLERY to see images, PODCAST to hear an interview with our consultant, Anarupa Roy, and puppet maker Gunduraju or ESSAY to read an in depth scholarly essay on this subject.

To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
Ursula K. Le Guin

Welcome to The Library of Shadows, a VR experience devoted to Togalu gombeyaata, an ancient art form and living folk tradition from South India, specifically Karnataka. Shadow puppetry originated in India and China around the 1st century BCE. As a medium, it plays with the two most primal elements in the universe, darkness and light, and prefigures all other mediums, such as cinematography and VR, which use light, images, and projection screens in creative ways.

For most of the contemporary human world, true darkness no longer exists. Your cities and homes are bathed in artificial light and you spend hours each day looking at backlit phones, computers, or television screens. Because of this, few of you can imagine how your ancestors once related to the dark. For them, shadows didn’t simply signify the absence of light, rather they belonged to a world which had presence, mystery, sometimes even intention. This included ghosts, spirits, and other beings from other realms. Togalu gombeyaata creates art out of the magical substance of shadows: puppeteers bring characters to life, making them walk, dance, fight, and laugh, while music and narration accompany them.

The Library of Shadows shares four puppets from Samudra Manthan, a popular Hindu epic that tells the story of the eternal struggle between the gods (devas) and demons (asuras). The gods, having lost their power, ask the demons to help them obtain an elixir of immortality (Amrita), so as to regain their powers. To do so, the gods and demons must work with a large snake named Vasuki to churn a cosmic ocean of milk. In the process, treasures bubble to the surface, including a wish-fulfilling cow named Kamadhenu, a four tusked elephant named Airavata, and a winged horse named Uchchaihshravas. While the gods eventually obtain the elixir, the demons also get a small portion, which is why the struggle between good and evil remains till this day.

Enter The Library of Shadows and follow Vasuki the snake to experience the world of Togalu gombeyaata. Drum and dance to bring the puppets from Samudra Manthan to life. To learn more about this library, listen to the podcast or read the essay by Anurupa Roy, The Infinite Library’s expert in South Indian puppetry.

gallery


A folio illustration depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk scene from the Samudra Manthan, retrieved from Wikipedia Commons.
Vasuki, leather puppet by Gunduraju-ji, photograph by Sukhman Dhillon

Uchhaisravas, the winged horse, leather puppet by Gunduraju-ji, photograph by Sukhman Dhillon

Kamdhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow, leather puppet by Gunduraju-ji, photograph by Sukhman Dhillon

Airavata, the four-tusked elephant, leather puppet by Gunduraju-ji, photograph by Sukhman Dhillon

A painting depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk scene from the Samudra Manthan, author and date unknown. Retrieved from Wikipedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

podcast


Coming soon

Anurupa
Roy


A puppeteer, puppet designer
and director of the puppet theater. 


Anurupa Roy is a puppeteer, puppet designer, puppet theater director and founder of Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust. Her work uses puppets for psychosocial interventions in conflict areas like Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and Manipur along with Juvenile Remand homes. Roy has worked with youth and women across India using puppets to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and gender issues. Roy is the recipient of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in Puppetry, the Sangeet Kala Kiran Puraskar, and the Shankar Nag Theatre awards.


Indian Shadow Puppet Theatre


There is an ancient Greek story where the gods were debating about where to hide the greatest secret to life, the ultimate wisdom. Some suggested the highest mountain, but others argued that humans would eventually climb it, some then suggested the deepest ocean but that was rejected. Eventually humans would reach there too. Finally the gods decided to hide it in plain sight, within the human’s own mind--his dreams. I believe, that epic narratives are also where the gods placed this wisdom.

The traditional puppet theatre is characterized by such narratives being passed down from one generation to the next within the family or kin over a few hundred or even a few thousand years. Each generation then adds something of their own and passes it on, further distilling, refining and adapting it to changing audiences and patrons. Thus tradition is an ever changing phenomenon, it is not something frozen in time. The day it becomes static, it starts to die. Traditional performing art forms are very importantly rooted in their cultural history, social practices and linguistic contexts. These are complex and nuanced biospheres. The evolution of Shadow puppetry and the role of the puppeteer in India is a living testimonial of this complexity.

Traditional puppetry in India is not of a single type. There are (on record) 18 living forms which include glove, rod, string and shadow puppets in different parts of India. Besides these, there are several new groups of puppeteers who are not generational puppeteers and work with an amalgam of old and new techniques. They are called somewhat debatably “modern” puppeteers. The situation of the puppet forms vary widely from region to region in India.

The most important aspect of traditional puppetry is its narrative context, which is deeply rooted in the oral versions of epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata , stories from the Puranas and regional folklore. These narratives determine the nature of the performances (dialogues, stylizations in speech, in music and songs) the design of the puppets (color, shape, size, material used), the aesthetic of the form and its link with the audience. The story is thus the core and the puppets mostly illustrate the narrative. The aesthetic often resembles that of the local sculptures, paintings and other performing arts. These are inextricably linked. Traditional audiences are already familiar with the story, the songs, dialogues and jokes too. The role of the puppeteer was and still is more than that of a mere entertainer. S/he is the Shaman, healer, storyteller, local wise wo/man, the holder of a collective

history, drawing parallels between the local politics and the epics, linking philosophy and social realities. His/her deep knowledge of the oral narrative on the one hand and socio-cultural realities on the other helps him/her to negotiate the space between the audience and the mythical characters. In my opinion it is him/her, the carrier of the narrative, and not the puppets, that are central to the performance.

The Mahabharata and Ramayana are often looked at as linear texts written by one author in a particular period. The stories have actually been passed on over a few centuries and have several authors,interpolations and versions. A ‘monolithic’ view of these texts diminishes their depth and unimaginable richness. The Ramayana alone has 300 versions! The oral versions of the epics are illustrated by the puppet performances. The performing arts are a major vessel to carry these repositories of wisdom. To cite a simple example, in the written versions of the Ramayana we mostly hear of one Ravana or the ten headed king of Lanka but in the oral narrative we hear of six different Ravanas, Dash-Kantha- the ten headed, Shata-kantha the hundred headed Ravanas, Mahi-Ravana and Ahi Ravana, the two brothers, Chayya Ravana and Maya Ravana as holograms of the ten headed Ravana. Even the story of the most commonly known ten headed Ravana has different back stories in each version.

The Southern states namely Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the Eastern state of Orissa have their own distinct type of shadow puppetry. The four Southern states can trace their roots to the shadow puppet form (Chamrachiye Bahuliye) of Maharashtra in the West of India, now a rarely seen form. It is believed that the puppeteers travelled from coastal Maharashtra to Karnataka and then to Tamil Nadu. This is apparent from the common language “Arre”, an old version of Marathi spoken by the puppeteers of all these states even today. About a thousand years ago, the Maharaja of Palghat, a kingdom (now a district in the state of Kerala) invited scholars who were experts of the Kamba Ramayana from Tamilnadu to come to Kerala and set up puppet theaters outside the Bhadrakali temples across Palghat. Even today during the Bhadrakali festivals, the Pullavars, or puppeteer/scholars perform inside the “Kootamadams” puppet theaters built across the temples’ sanctum sanctora. Eighty three such theaters come alive from February to May every year, where episodes from the Kamba Ramayana are performed over 7, 11, 14, 21 or 64 nights from sun set to sun rise. Fire from the goddesses’ sanctum is used to light the lamps of the puppet theater. In the Kamba Ramayana version, Ravana is not the villain but the cursed door keeper of Vaikuntham, who is reborn as Ravana with his brother Kumbhakarna, only to be released by the Avatar of Vishnu, Ram.

Karnataka- Togalu Gombeyata – The shadows have vibrant colors, traditionally these were black, red and white. These have three kinds of puppets within the shadow form. The composite image puppets (Jamgat Bavli) where one image tells a whole story or a series of images tell a story like in a comic book. The single image/character puppet (Ikpat Bavli) which does not have any articulation and the single character with joints for articulation (Haathpheruthali Bavli). The puppeteers belong to the Sillakayata community, originally a hunting-gathering tribe that made and performed with leather shadow puppets. In their stories they appear as “Sillakayata” the clown and trace their mythical origins as the royal guards of Rama. The story goes that Surpanakha, the sister of the defeated king Ravana, comes to Sita in disguise, begging her to engage her as a ladies’ maid. Sita, engages her and in time she becomes close to the queen by telling her stories. One day she asks Sita, if she remembers Ravana, and Sita tells her that she had never seen Ravana. Surpanakha, keeps persisting “O queen,you must have seen him sometime?”, “Didn’t he visit you everyday?”, “How could you have never seen him”, so Sita succumbs and says that she has once seen his toe. On Surpanakha’s insistence Sita draws this toe from memory onto a large piece of paper. Surpanakha, an experienced enchantress, then draws the rest of the figure of her brother and brings it to life. This was/is Chhaya Ravana, a shadow Ravana, bent on avenging his death. He thus hides under the bed. When Ram returns to his bedchamber to rest, he pops out to avenge himself but the guards fight and defeat him. He is then cut up in small parts and strung together as a puppet. Thus are born shadow puppets.

In Tamil Nadu, the opaque shadow puppet, called Thol Bommalata, becomes bigger and more colourful. ‘Thol’ is shadow and ‘Bomba’ or ‘Gomba’ is a doll and ‘latam’ is dance, so literally translated, it is shadow-doll-dance. The puppets are usually individual characters and one puppeteer plays all the puppets by changing voices for all the characters, sings and plays several instruments. Sometimes a harmonium player also assists him and he may have an assistant to hand him the puppets. The average show has more than two puppets on stage at a time so quick changes characterize the shows. Animal characters and numerous jesters keep the shows very contemporary and fun.

Tolu Bommalatam, Andhra Pradesh, look similar to their Tamil cousins, except they are the largest shadow puppets in the family. Lankini, the demoness guarding the island of Lanka can be four meters!! Most puppets are between 1.5-2.5 meters and one puppeteer plays one character at a time. The puppets have many articulations and so the legs, arms, head and sometimes even the waist moves. Backstage, balanced on a wooden plank, the puppeteer dances along with his puppet, setting the rhythm and enabling the puppet’s legs to move without actually touching them. In this version based on the Molla, Kamba and Adbhuta Ramayana,one can hear the story of Ahi-Ravana and Mahi-Ravana , two brothers and childhood classmates of the king of Lanka. He tricks them into joining the war against Ram. They kidnap Ram and Lakshman and Hanuman must follow them to the nether world to rescue them.

The Ravanchayya, of Orissa, like Kerala, has black and white puppets only. These are small puppets and use tricks like small versions of the same character to show long distance and large version to show nearness. This is based on the Bichitra Ramayana written by Bishwanath Khuntia for theatrical performances.

I hope that in the near future we will see more acknowledgment to this art- form in India. Training opportunities, that trains both, generational puppeteers from families that practice traditional forms and new artists from a non traditional background to be skilled professionals in the arts of puppetry. Exposures for audiences besides the traditional audience might snowball into a deeper questioning of the stereotypes that surround the art form. Maybe this will increase the self-esteem of the puppeteer and encourage the children of generational puppeteers to continue to practice their art and also be free to innovate. With projects like this virtual library maybe finally, the “dying art” label will be challenged by an increased digital presence of Indian traditional puppet theatre. And maybe it will finally bring in it’s wake policy changes. But it is definite that this will lead to new discourses around puppet theatre and a strong stimulus for innovation in all puppet theatre in India.

LIBRARY OF elements


The Celestial Garden of Medieval Alchemy

The Library of Elements is a VR experience devoted to medieval European alchemy. Click on INTRO to read a short text about this experience, GALLERY to see images, PODCAST to hear an interview with our consultant, Jakub Hlaváček, or ESSAY to read an in depth scholarly essay on this subject.

Nature delights in nature, nature conquers nature, nature rules nature.
Physika kai Mystika / Pseudo-Democritus (1st century CE)

Welcome to The Library of Elements: a VR experience devoted to European medieval alchemy. There is no simple definition of alchemy, which, in different forms, has developed independently in India, China, the Arab world, and Europe. At its most basic level, alchemy is an art form and practice devoted to nature and transformation. Its roots are pre-literate; its body of knowledge is transmitted in symbols, dreams, rituals, and, later codexes.

The difficulty in approaching alchemy today is that it clashes with the contemporary scientific worldview, which assumes matter and the cosmos to be dead. For most of human history, matter and the cosmos were believed to be living things. The practices of mining raw ores and the art of their transformation into metals, an act known as metallurgy, were considered sacred acts. But we now take metals and their meanings for granted. For example, it is doubtful you believe your cell phone, composed of copper, tellurium, lithium, cobalt, manganese, and tungsten, to be a sacred device connected to the planet and its history. Nor do you believe my library, which depends on the internet, with its hundreds of millions of kilometers of metal cables, stretched across oceans and continents, to be a divine manifestation.

The medieval alchemist thought differently. To use fire to transmute raw ores into purified metals was considered a reenactment of the progress of the cosmos, from primordial chaos into higher forms of consciousness. By pursuing the perfection of these metals, the alchemist pursued his own perfection. The liberation of those metals from base stone was seen as akin to the alchemist's own spiritual liberation. Freedom, illumination, even immortality was believed possible since to transmute metals was to collaborate with the creator and free matter from the laws of time. This total transformation, of both the material and spiritual worlds, was titled The Great Work.

Enter The Library of Elements to experience three stages of alchemical transformation: Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo. To learn more about this library, listen to the podcast or read the essay by Jakub Hlaváček, The Infinite Library’s expert in the philosophy of alchemy.

gallery


The image “Miners excavating a hill” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

The image “The Solar King and the Lunar Queen meet” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

The image “The dark sun” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

The image “Mercury - The White Queen” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

The image “Moon - The Red King” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

The image “Philosopher with Flask” from Splendor Solaris, retrieved from bordel.haghn.com

podcast


Coming soon

Jakub
Hlaváček


A puppeteer, puppet designer
and director of the puppet theater. 


Mgr. Jakub Hlaváček, Ph.D. studied Religious Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University (Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He is the director of the Prague-based publishing house Malvern. He specializes in philosophy and alchemy in the age of the Renaissance and early modern times. He is the author of many translations (for example M. Ficino, G. Bruno, H. Khunrath, M. Maier, R. Daumal, R. Alleau, etc.) and articles about alchemy and literature and the role of the imagination. His recent publications are The Signs of Things: The Renaissance Theory of Signatures (2020) and Aslepius (2019) both co-written with Martin Žemla.


The Tradition of Alchemy and Creative Imagination


Alchemy, otherwise known as “the science of music”, “the gay science”, or “the celestial gardening”, is a word shrouded in a veil of mystery that promises initiation into forgotten mysteries. Historically, alchemy dates back to the mysteries of early metallurgists, sacred Egyptian temple teachings, Greek-Alexandrian hermeticism, and Byzantine and Arabic alchemical practices (the science of balance). As a tradition, alchemy is most familiar to us in the form associated with Christianity, for example, the teachings of the Rosicrucians. Less known to Westerners are the equally developed and still unbroken traditions of Chinese and Indian alchemies. For the practitioner, who may have little or no interest in these separate histories, alchemy is a spiritual and transformative teaching whose goal is the “philosopher’s stone”: a remedy (whether in the form of powder, tincture, edible vermilion, drinkable gold, or spagyric quintessence) or transformation of consciousness whose effect is not limited to the body, but extends to the soul and spirit, manifesting itself in all the natural realms, from minerals to humans. In other words, the alchemical quest corresponds to a state of body, mind, and spirit which seeks harmony between the human soul and the soul of the world.

What distinguishes alchemy from purely mystical or “spiritual” paths is above all the loving work, or practice, with substances, matter, materials (particularly with metals), since matter – through all the ways in which it can be refined, perfected, and revitalized -- reflects the inner growth of the laboring alchemist and, in turn, has a retroactive effect on him. This means that by changing matter, or metals, in particular, the alchemist has the power to change him or herself. Why metals? According to alchemical cosmology, the lowest form of matter in the golden chain, or hierarchy, of creation corresponds to the highest form of matter; and even while metals correspond to the lowest level, they also embody the greatest potency and healing power. The prerequisite for this dialectical interplay of substance and spirit lies within the alchemist themself. It relates to their “inner chymic wedding” at the “heart of the heart”, which is the way in which their inner self or spirit affects their work. This is also referred to as the intersection of the cross, whose horizontal axis manifests two contrary poles (male and female, animus and anima), and whose vertical axis is the medium of divine influence on the world. The inner union of the “male and female principle” is thus the sacrifice of one’s own ego to the divine Spirit, the mysterious passage through death, and the transformation of limited consciousness and its preparation for enlightenment. This transformation, if achieved, can also be understood as the marriage of substance and Spirit.

The unity of spirit and body – or of divine and material principles – emphasized by alchemists, is perhaps even more important to alchemy than the Aristotelian notion of the transformation of elemental qualities, which can be best understood as the transmutation of metals. Mythically, this transformation echoes a much older, archaic concept, which conceived of metals as organic, living things that ripened in the womb of the Earth. According to Stoic teachings, God equals substance, in other words, “God is a quality inseparable from substance and passes through it as the seed passes through genitals.” While in their power or force, the two principles of spirit and body (active and passive, God and substance, or Sulphur and Mercury) are understood as the cosmos, manifested, they are at the same time inseparably connected. In this way, they form a unity. This unity in alchemy is symbolized by the rebis (“doublet”): the hermaphrodite of the alchemical Great Work.

Since Hellenistic alchemy, the traditional process mentioned above has been carried out in three basic phases. These, in turn, are symbolized by three colors: the phase of putrefaction and decomposition of the substance into primordial matter (black or nigredo), the phase of purification of the body (white work or albedo), and the final phase of the red work (rubedo), which represents the attainment of the royal philosophical stone, which equals the entire transformation of one’s mind, body, and spirit.

A person unfamiliar with alchemy will certainly be impressed by the wide array of diverse imagery associated with it. As a knowledge system, alchemy speaks in the form of images, stories, fairy tales, dreams, and visions. Thanks to the Christian world’s trust in the power and efficacy of images, the mythological bedrock of “paganism”, which we see visualized in alchemy, not only continued but thrived, albeit with meanings that flourished. In esoteric Christianity, this very trust in images even provided a counterpoint to iconoclastic tendencies within modern science which emerged from one conceptual version of Christianity that emphasized detachment, inaccessibility, and transcendence of the hidden God.

Historically, while alchemy assumes an interconnection between the two fundamental dimensions of the world – heavenly/divine and earthly/ephemeral - it struggled as a philosophy to be accepted because of the ways in which it conflicted with ideas upheld by the mainstream Chirstian Church. For example, within alchemy, this connection between the spirit and body is understood as an incarnation of the divine. This is in direct contradiction to the dualistic tendencies which gave birth to the disembodied perspective of modern science, we can see the birthright of Western materialism. God, when thought of as pure spirit, who is fully Himself and nothing else, and to whom one can relate only and exclusively by faith and not by cognitive powers of any kind, in this way, became the forerunner of the “modern abstract conception of objective reality.”

In the eminently hermetic art of alchemy, which is focused on the ancient and occult traditions, the mediating role of the planet Mercury is central. Mercury is the guide of souls and a messenger of the gods: a mutable or flexible principle whose domain is the imagination. In this role, Mercury is understood as the mediator between the world of phenomena, which is accessible to the senses, and the world of angelic intelligence, which is otherworldly and only reachable by a higher sense. Like a meditator, the alchemist enters the world of alchemical visionary reality by moving within him or herself to a space where all that is external becomes internal.

Yet the imagined world, or world of the imagination, is not a Jungian collective unconscious: a term introduced by Carl Jung that represents the unconscious as a space or thing that contains memories and impulses common to all human beings and part of our internal brain structure. In the case of the alchemical imagination, the images are not given to everyone in the same way. On the contrary: that world is always personal and unique. It is not purely material. Nor is it wholly immaterial, or intellectual in character. The alchemical imagination has its own unique dimension and space which Henry Corbin calls “imaginal” and is described as a world of “subtle bodies” or “suspended images”. Within that world, the imagination’s main role is that of mediating between gross matter and the spirit. Furthermore, it is this feature of the alchemical imagination, through which this world emerges and becomes known, that makes it possible to transform the spiritual world into the phenomenal or material world and to ensure their mutual communication. This cognitive function of the imagination enables an act of thinking that avoids banal rationalism. This is because this spiritual exchange between the outer and inner world is in contradiction to any form of reductive rationalism which oscillates in vain between “matter” and “spirit” while facing an unsolvable dilemma, which is that history and myth cannot be separated. This includes the myth of rationalism and Western Materialism.

In alchemy, it is precisely this acknowledgment of the imagination and its corresponding connection to the spiritual world that sets it apart from other knowledge systems. In this case, the imagined world has a metaphysical reality. It is a thing that exists. This is why it plays a crucial role in our world. It is a mediator and one that validates those who commit themselves to spiritual narratives, which is why reports on “events in Heaven” can be taken seriously. The same is true about the validity of dreams, symbolic rituals, and the reality of places that are shaped by the imagination, especially those that inspire visions, cosmogonies, and theogonies. Finally, the truth and meaning which grow out of the connections between the spiritual world and the imagination are where prophetic revelations come from, which is to say prophecy itself depends on this connection.

In western culture, the theophanic vision, which is the idea that one can personally encounter God in an observable or sensible way, faded away after the era of Paracelsus, a German-Swiss alchemist, and physician of the 16th century. From that time on, the scientific worldview and the subsequent mathematization and “mechanization” of cosmology took over, as did the transference of the soul to a psychological state. Other conceptions of the soul and God would come from Eastern theosophy, which developed the idea of the “creative imagination” which teaches us how to recognize the hidden meaning in the manifest forms. In other words, in the West, the soul and God ceased to exist as objective, observable, and sensible phenomena.

In alchemy, the experience of the soul taking the form of the body and the body being the image of the soul would later manifest in initiatory narratives that included the acquisition of “physiognomic” knowledge, an idea or practice which believes that you can access a person’s personality (or to learn the inner quality of the plant or other substance) through their outer appearance. Within alchemical and hermetic traditions, this practice of insight, which unmasks reality, so as to make the invisible visible, is identified with Angelic knowledge. It is otherwise known as the Journey to the Angel. “In order to embark on the pilgrimage of knowledge at all, one needs a guide, whom the tradition calls the inner master, the perfect Nature, the Witness, or the Angel Gabriel, or the active Intellect, who will help one to master the three fickle companions of the soul: desire, anger, and false imagination, and will help the pilgrim to an ontological metamorphosis that will create a subtle and immortal body that alone is capable of penetrating the imaginal world. On the ethical level, this means that “the neurotic desire for any object associated with desire must be reoriented into a desire for the Beautiful. The appetite for sensual pleasures must be moved while striving for the dream of heaven, and the wrath of impulsive emotions, is to be transformed into the courage to wage that ʻgreat warʼ against oneself rather than to fight little wars against others.”

Pierre-Yves Albrecht aptly describes the archetypal thresholds, or doorways to this experience, as a passage through an initiatory form of death which finds its equivalents in each of the genuine spiritual traditions whose authenticity is attested to by their ability to overcome the psychic-bodily conditioning of the personal self. After the passage through the darkness, which corresponds to the dark night of the soul, the pilgrim awaits the passage through the elements, the aim of which is to get to know the composition of the self as “consciousness-body”. He or she then passes through the various mansions, or levels of reality, that previously enslaved him.

“The substance one encounters mostly on the surface is that with which the ordinary self is constantly identified: the psyche, the ordinary reflexive dynamic mechanisms. When the soul recognizes and masters them, it is blessed by ‘omnipresent and pervading’ virtue that can directly influence other spirits, the ability to read minds, and to evoke certain images in other minds. A new phenomenon emerges: it is no longer dominated by “cerebral” reflection, but by the emergence of profound and radical idea-energies, perceived directly, as it were, without the ubiquitous filter of judgment and reasoning. Subsequently, the exploration ventures into the deeper layers of being, towards the seat of global affectivity where the influences of the primordial energies associated with animality are manifest and of which the external animal species are but a relative opening for the senses. The soul recognizes its animal world and its “sacred animals,” its totems and zodiacal faculties, the roots of the bestiary that continually return the emotional currents to their sources. As the immersion deepens, the soul begins to touch the subtle forces which correspond to the plant kingdom. This is a uniquely shamanic plane, which opens the way to a “supersensory” perception of plant essences associated with corresponding abilities. The soul acquires knowledge of magical medicine associated with the wisdom of plants, i.e., direct knowledge of the appropriate medicines, the “signatures” or spirits of herbs capable of acting with incredible efficiency on diseases of the body, heart, and spirit. The final stage is reached when the descent into the depths reaches the telluric structure of the body and when the soul recognizes the minerality and the “atomic and molecular” networks of its being. It gains thus the power to act upon substances and upon the “laws of external minerality,” always in accordance with the homology according to which he who has been able to transform his own metals within himself can now effect such a transformation externally. Each step of the descent into the inwardness of existence takes place under the patronage of a certain category of Angel-energies. The Cherubim, for example, govern the plane of the mineral kingdom. In the narrative, the climate of the Elements and Species follows that of the Earthly and Celestial Substances. Let us bear in mind that reality is structured according to two principles: the Substance and the Form (Idea).”

Yves-Albrecht further compares the liberation of these virtual energies extracted from the Shadow, or the dark part of the soul, to finding a bride hidden in the very heart, which in the Christian hermetic tradition corresponds to the encounter with the celestial goddess or archetype Sophia. Then, according to the Christina mystic Gichtel, the soul itself becomes an angel of God who inhabits the heavens and speaks with God. Initiation is thus accomplished through cardiognosis: the traditional “thinking of the heart.” From the point of Christian Hermeticism, this heart-based knowledge cannot be acquired by any external or internal technical procedure; the grace of God cannot be “earned”, it cannot be the object of any effort; one does not initiate oneself, one becomes initiated.

The acquisition of this “quintessence” is at the same time “the middle way”, the way of balance and tempering, which makes possible the action of what has been called the “third force”, or the efficacy of divine grace. Alchemically speaking, this “sharing” of initiation is only possible as consciousness extends simultaneously in both directions, along the Sun-Heart-Gold axis.

As a knowledge system, alchemy returns to us the abandoned and seemingly outmoded motifs and themes that were central to Hermetic thought, in particular, the role of imagination as the bond that ensures the inner interconnectedness of the world, the way of thinking in analogies, the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm, and the concept of man as the keystone of the universe and the image of God, not only as the ruler or subjugator of nature, but especially as the one who, by his very being in the world, orders the world in a certain way: his responsibility for himself is also his responsibility for the world, and vice versa.

LIBRARY OF navigation


Starpaths of the Pacific

The Library of Navigation is a VR experience devoted to Polynesian navigation. Click on INTRO to read a short text about this experience, GALLERY to see images, PODCAST to hear interviews with our consultant, Christina Thompson, and chant performer Kuuleilani Reyes, or ESSAY to read an in depth scholarly essay on this subject.

The sea is as near as we come to another world.
Anne Stevenson, “North Sea off Carnoustie” (1977)

Welcome to The Library of Navigation, a VR experience devoted to Polynesian navigation, a knowledge system developed by the seagoing people who colonized the largest ocean in the world, beginning 3,000 years ago. By developing tools and skills that allowed them to read the sun, stars, winds, clouds, birds, fish, and seas, and using oral traditions that encoded and passed on their knowledge, the Polynesians were able to settle every habitable island in the mid-Pacific. This VR piece celebrates this achievement, one equal to the first flights into space or the major inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

It is hard to imagine what navigation meant to your ancestors. This is partly because over half of all humans now carry in their pockets a computer that is millions of times more powerful than the one that first landed humans on the moon. With a smartphone, a person with no navigational skills can now find their way anywhere in the world with a wireless signal. At no other point in history was this imaginable. Instead, traveling over a mountain range, a desert, or a large body of water would have been the project not of a year or even a lifetime but of generations—sometimes tens of generations.

How did early humans accomplish these extraordinary migrations? The first Westerners to arrive in Polynesia struggled to understand how a people without maps, compasses, writing, or metal tools could settle an area that extended over 40 million square kilometers of blue ocean. They proposed many different theories, often failing to understand that the Polynesian peoples’ achievements were not due to chance, or luck, but to their ability to store and pass on knowledge about navigation and survival through a highly developed and complex storytelling tradition, which included poems, songs, chants, dances, and more. Thanks to scientists, folklorists, and Polynesians who preserved their traditional stories, this knowledge system lives on.

Enter The Library of Navigation and listen to a morning prayer and chant, in Hawaiian; sail in the outrigger canoe and learn to tell the difference between the animals in your boat and those that might guide you. To learn more about this library, listen to the podcasts with Christina Thompson and Hawaiian chanter Kuuleilani Reyes or read the essay by Thompson, The Infinite Library’s expert on the history of Polynesian navigation.

gallery


A map drawing of The Society Islands by Captain Cook and Tupa’ia from 1769, retrieved from The British Museum.
A drawing of Indigenous Australians in bark canoes by Tupa’ia from 1770, retrieved from The British Museum.

A drawing of a longhouse and canoes in Tahiti by Tupa’ia from 1769, retrieved from The British Museum.

A drawing of musicians in Tahiti by Tupa’ia from 1770, retrieved from The British Museum.

An image of master navigator Mau Piailug teaching his song navigation using a star compass made of shells, photograph by Steve Thomas, retrieved from samlow.com.

An image of a Polynesian voyaging canoe drawn by Louis Le Breton in Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l'Océanie sur les corvettes l'Astrolabe et la Zélée (1846) by Jules Dumont d'Urville. Retrieved from abeltasman.org.nz. An image of an outrigger canoe called a “proa” from the Caroline Islands, artist unknown. Retrieved from indigenousboats.blogspot.com. An image of a Polynesian outrigger canoe at Jaliut Lagoon, Marshal Islands (1899-1900), author unknown. Retrieved from Wikipedia Commons.

podcast


Coming soon

Christina
Thompson



Christina Thompson is the author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, winner of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and the 2019 NSW Premier’s General History Award. Her memoir, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, was a finalist for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. A dual citizen of the United States and Australia, she is the editor of Harvard Review.


If we were to cast our minds back a few thousand years and look at the distribution of humans across the globe, we might notice something interesting about where they lived. We would find people living in the deepest jungles, in the most arid deserts, and way up in the highest mountains in the world; we would even find them living on the ice. By 2000 BCE, humans had figured out how to inhabit almost all of Earth’s environments, even the most geographically challenging. But there was still one type of place they not been able to reach.

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from any continental edge, lie hundreds of little islands. The vast majority of these are found in the tropical and semi-tropical zones; they are warm, well-watered, covered with plants, and surrounded by seas full of life. They are in many ways ideal from the point of view of humans seeking a place to live. And yet, until about 3500 years ago, no one had ever set foot on them. The vast stretches of ocean that separate them from the continents presented an insurmountable barrier—until someone figured out to how to cross these great expanses of sea.

Even within the history of human achievement, this was an astonishing feat. Over a period of perhaps 1500 years—from roughly 500 BCE to 1000 CE—a migratory, ocean-going people, traveling in open canoes and navigating without compasses or maps, explored and colonized the entire Pacific, settling for the first time in human history some of the remotest and most isolated islands in the world.

Today we refer to the area at the center of this story as Polynesia: a triangular region of some 25 million square kilometers bounded by the islands of Hawai‘i, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), and New Zealand (Aotearoa), and encompassing the archipelagoes of Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, and many more. The Islanders who inhabit this region, and who go by various names including Māori (Aotearoa New Zealand), Kānaka Maoli (Hawai’i), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are all descended from a group of Austronesian seafarers who left the Asian mainland perhaps 5000 years ago. Gradually working their way south from Taiwan, through the Philippines and Indonesia, around the north coast of Papua New Guinea, and past the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, they emerged from the region known as Island Southeast Asia into the vast and largely empty territory of Remote Oceania. By 500 BCE they had reached Tonga and Samoa; by perhaps 800 CE they had discovered the islands of the mid-Pacific: Tahiti, Rarotonga, the Marquesas. And somewhere around the 1000 CE mark they made the epic voyages that took them to the farthest points of the Polynesian triangle.

Travelling in large, double-hulled canoe, they carried with them everything they needed to make a new life in a new land. They brought animals like dogs, pigs, and chickens; food plants like breadfruit, kumara, and taro. They brought coconuts, of course, that most useful of crops—a tree that gives food, drink, shelter, cordage, storage, and so much more—and cuttings of trees like the paper mulberry, from whose bark they made cloth. They brought their gods, their customs, and their languages, and in each of the islands they discovered they remade a version of their world.

Sometimes they named the new lands they discovered in memory of places they had left: Upolu, Vava‘u, and especially Hawaiki, a mythic homeland commemorated in many Polynesian archipelagoes, including most obviously that of Hawai‘i. They brought a way of thinking predicated on the importance of descent. Everything, in their cosmology, was linked genealogically: not just gods and people, but sand and stones, rocks and trees, creeping and swimming and flying things, all the animate and inanimate matter of the world. They were acute, perspicacious, intimate observers of their universe: a world of sea and sky and islands, of oceanic weather patterns and tropical and subtropical seasons. It was a world their ancestors had inhabited for millennia, and they were masters of its complexity.

For many hundreds of years these Islanders were the only humans of this part of the world. But in the early sixteenth century another group of voyagers arrived. Europeans, first the Spanish and the Portuguese, followed in the seventeenth century by the Dutch, gradually began to work their way around the great ocean. They quickly discovered that the Pacific was much larger than they had expected and that it contained a great deal less land. They were laboring under a misconception about the existence of a continent somewhere in the southern reaches of the Pacific basin. But while they searched in vain for this imaginary landmass, their quest for it did eventually lead them to the islands.

European explorers in the Pacific were further surprised to discover that every island in the mid-Pacific that could sustain a human population—as well as many that seemed only marginally capable of supporting human life—was inhabited. Where, they wondered, had these large, thriving, well-established populations come from? And how, given the intrinsic difficulty of crossing such an enormous ocean, had they managed to get there?

By then, enough time had elapsed since the original settlement of the islands that much about this chapter of human history was beginning to drift into obscurity. At some point in the distant past—no one knows exactly when—Polynesians had stopped making the very longest journeys across their watery domain. They still travelled distances of some hundreds of kilometers among contiguous archipelagoes (within the Fiji–Tonga–Samoa region, for example), but truly long-distance voyaging, the 3000- and 4000-kilometre journeys that had originally taken them out to the farthest reaches of the Polynesian triangle, had become a thing of the past.

The Islanders still had stories of these epic voyages, however, tales of heroic navigators who braved the dangers of the deep and who set out on quests to discover new islands, or procure objects of value, or make daring rescues, or sometimes simply to escape difficulties at home. Such narratives, which we might classify as myths, have a lot to say about the experience and worldview of oceanic peoples, their relationships to sea creatures, their knowledge of islands, their awareness of the dangers and challenges of a life lived on the sea, even about the motivations of those who undertook such incredible journeys. And they sometimes contain surprisingly detailed information about practical matters like the ideal size of a crew, or the foods to be taken on a journey, or even the precise geography of a particular archipelago.

There are interesting differences between the way that information is transmitted in an oral culture, like that of the voyagers who settled these islands, and cultures like our own which rely largely on writing. In an oral culture, all information is passed by word of mouth, and this not only constrains the kinds of information that can be communicated, it alters the shape that information takes. In our digital world, for example, any geographic knowledge that we might need is likely encoded in GPS and accessed through an electronic device. European navigators of three hundred years ago relied on maps and charts and others forms of written documentation, as well as mechanical devices like compasses and quadrants. Polynesian voyagers of five hundred years ago obviously did not have GPS, but they also did not use maps or compasses. Their geographic knowledge was encoded in stories and chants.

A famous story still told in Hawai‘i concerns the goddess Pele, who set out from her distant homeland on a journey. At length, she reached the Hawaiian Islands, arriving first at the island of Ni‘ihau, which is the most northwesterly island in the chain. Traveling in southeasterly direction, she passed on to Kauai, then to O‘ahu, and on to each island in turn, naming each in the correct geographical order, until she finally arrived at the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the most southeasterly of them all. The story is in some sense the oral equivalent of a map. But there are many such narratives; a chant from the Caroline Islands similarly enumerates a sequence of islands in geographical order, as it describes the movements of a parrotfish flitting from one to the next in an effort to avoid being caught.

Such chants were not just directions. They often had additional dimensions, doubling as invocations to the gods, as spiritual as well as geographic aids to navigation, or even as morality tales, involving information about the correct protocols to be observed when building or launching a canoe or traveling to a distant place. And it is undoubtedly these other dimensions that helped keep them alive in the culture for so many hundreds of years. But there is another kind of voyaging knowledge—specific, practical, technical information about how to set a course, or fix a position at sea, or find land when it is below the horizon, the kind of hands-on information that a practitioner might pass along to an apprentice—that either could not be easily encoded in narratives or chants, or that simply fell out of use as the demand for it diminished. And this almost did disappear.

What saved it was a decision by a group of sailors, anthropologists, and cultural revivalists in Hawai‘i in the 1960s and ’70s to try to recreate one of the great long-distance voyages of the past. They wanted to know how it had been done, and so they simply decided to try and do it. They built a replica voyaging canoe (or vaka) called Hokule‘a, and, with the help of a Micronesian navigator named Mau Piailug, they sailed it using only traditional, non-instrumental navigational methods from Hawai‘i to Tahiti.

This voyage, now the stuff of legend, involved a fascinating suite of techniques which were then still in use by only a tiny number of master navigators outside of Polynesia in the Caroline and other islands. In order to maintain a heading, they followed what is known as a star path, a predetermined series of stars rising in sequence near a particular point on the horizon. They paid attention to ocean swells and wave patterns, observing how the ocean interacted with the land. They noted the formations of clouds, which behave differently over land and water, and the behavior of birds, who go out to feed in the morning and return to their islands at night. They used a method of position-fixing which required the navigator to hold an imaginary island in his mind and keep track of where he was in relation to it. All this was done without any kind of record-keeping in the form or notes or maps and without any navigational devices. It was an entirely mental process and one that relied almost solely upon the capacity of the navigator.

The success of this voyage and the many that followed represents an extraordinary instance of the reclamation of knowledge. All around the Pacific, the art of wayfinding—the modern version of an ancient practice—is now being disseminated as part of a widespread cultural revival in the wake of two centuries of colonialism. Vaka, or voyaging canoes, from around the Pacific have not only reconnected the islands of Polynesia, they have gone farther, sailing right around the world. A creative blend of old and new, the Polynesian voyaging movement reflects the radical potential of knowledge to inspire us, even as it evolves and changes with time.

MAIN
CAVERN

The Infinite Library’s main cavern is dedicated to deep time and symbiosis. Within that space, visitors can discover cosmic pools that highlight eight different stories about our planet’s evolution, beginning with its origin. Learn more by clicking on the symbol below.

Visitors to the main cavern have a stick, which allows them to draw in the sand, activate the cosmic pools, and portal into the realms. Other items, partially hidden, must be discovered. For example, a large turtle who lurks in the shadows and a Neanderthal flute, carved from the bone of a bear around 50,000 years ago.

Why a cave?

Caves are where we find the first forms of symbolic expression, beginning around 70,000 years ago. They were our first libraries - spaces where our cultures incubated. But as humans mastered agriculture, around 10,000 years ago, our tool making abilities rapidly accelerated. We created cities, invented written languages, mastered navigation, launched an industrial revolution, and sent people and later tens of thousands of satellites into space. In geological time, this all happened in less than a second. Were the planet’s history a 24-hour clock, we arrived at 11:59:40. And yet, in just a few hundred years, a nanosecond, our species has fundamentally changed the planet’s geochemical makeup. One result is that we have triggered the sixth mass extinction, which is under-way.

While the cave and its cosmic pools are symbolic portals, intended to glorify our planet’s evolution, they are also reminders, even warnings, that our human story is impossibly young; and very fragile. The Infinite Library’s main cavern invites us to return to and reflect upon our species’ beginnings. It also poses the question: what will the next phase of our planet’s evolution look like? By inviting visitors into the first library created around the concept of deep time, The Infinite Library seeks to pose more questions than answers. Symbolized by the ouroboros, the snake that eats its tail, it asks us to reimagine the library not as a thing, or specific form, but as a living idea, and one that must die to be reborn.


Installation

This installation seeks to share stories that are living, tactile, and nonlinear. In the VR spaces, this translates to simulated environments that host embedded knowledge, which is multisensory and unique to each visitor. The physical installation presents the context behind these virtual spaces. Click on the link below to move through the User Journey.

Visitors first approach a monitor, outside the main installation space, where The Infinite Library introduces itself in first person. There they also receive a pair of headphones and are instructed, via a QR code, as to how they can begin their journey into the installation. Those who do not have a smartphone will be provided with a smart tablet.

When visitors first scan the QR code at the entry, they will have two options. They can either EXPLORE the library's house (the installation) or they can PLAY A GAME with the library.

THE VOLUMES

Within the installation, visitors can click on QR codes, affixed to jars, to hear the library narrate stories about the contents within. We call this section The Volumes. Detailed, 3D sculptures, resting in sand, represent 8 stages of evolution, spanning the birth of the planet up until the origin of the hominids. Each sculpture is accompanied by short audio or texts accessible via the QR codes. The goal of these interactions is to introduce processes and organisms which are featured inside animated cosmic pools within the main cavern of the VR space. If in GAME mode, the library will interact with the visitors, giving hints so that each player can follow a story which is linear, through time. If in EXPLORE mode the visitor's User Journey is entirely up to them.

PROJECTIONS

Beyond The Volumes, the installation space doubles as a place to make discoveries and learn more about The Realms. Three projections will feature the symbols for these libraries. Near each projection visitors can scan a QR code that will summarize the story behind each respective Realm. Those wanting to learn more can also click on a link, within the QR code experience, which will lead them to The Infinite Library’s website, where scholarly essays, documentary images, and podcasts can be found.

Credits


Produced by The Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi with Daisy with Rider Productions and High Road Stories

High Road Stories

VR concept and production

High Road Stories is a Berlin-based creative studio for immersive documentary experiences. The studio was founded in 2018 by director/writer Harmke Heezen and creative technologist Mike Robbins, who have many years of experience in award-winning digital and audiovisual documentary work. They create innovative, high quality projects and manage productions in collaboration with an international network of talented artists. We believe the digital world doesn’t have to be cold and impersonal, and specialize in thoughtful, playful, and imaginative experiences to prove it.

VR concept and production

High Road Stories is a Berlin-based creative studio for immersive documentary experiences. The studio was founded in 2018 by director/writer Harmke Heezen and creative technologist Mike Robbins, who have many years of experience in award-winning digital and audiovisual documentary work. They create innovative, high quality projects and manage productions in collaboration with an international network of talented artists. We believe the digital world doesn’t have to be cold and impersonal, and specialize in thoughtful, playful, and imaginative experiences to prove it.

Daisy with Rider Productions

creative director, VR project concept, texts, library voice

Mika Johnson is a multimedia artist interested in dream-like narratives, mythos, ritual, and biodiversity. He’s a director of fiction and documentary projects including a VR adaptation of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, a 15-part web series called The Amerikans, and his 2020 debut feature, Confessions of a Box Man. Recent projects include The Republic of Dreams, a multimedia installation which adapts the works of Bruno Schulz, and Lost Forms: a VR experience which allows users to interact with dying forms, such as an iceberg.

graphics and illustration

Marta Lissowska is a graphic artist, based in Warsaw, Poland, and Martina Franca, Italy. She studied graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, cultural anthropology at Warsaw University, and traditional arts at the Indonesian Art Institute in Yogyakarta. She works in the field of visual communication, layout design, illustration, and experimental animation. In 2021 she won one of the main prizes at the Polish Graphic Design Awards competition (fiction/non-fiction book design).

assistant director

Ján Tompkins is an archival researcher specializing in audiovisual storytelling. In 2020 he co-founded with Mika Johnson the Prague-based production company Daisy with Rider. He is the Assistant Director for The Republic of Dreams, a multimedia project that adapts the works of Bruno Schulz, and The Infinite Library, an upcoming virtual reality piece produced by the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi, both directed by Mika Johnson. He is currently completing a Master's degree in Humanities at Anglo-American University in Prague.

art direction & design consultant for website and installation

A multidisciplinary designer and consultant with a focus on creative and art direction and visual communication. With a functional approach and timeless artistic style, his work strives for the ideal end-user experience regardless of the used medium. He is skilled in an array of fields including branding, creative campaigns, packaging design, digital illustration, retail store design, or even a design of control system applications for production facilities. Jakub is also a member of various art projects and is versed in musical composition and production.

director and editor of teaser

Martin Schumet is a film director with a focus on strong, emotionally resonating narratives which explore the beautiful and twisted contradictions of the human condition. His directing work includes fiction short films, like Brazil! and Crying Moon and the Fallen Sun, as well as music videos for several international artists and commercials, where his micro-narratives aim to entertain and engage, leaving the viewer with a lasting emotional imprint.

social media assistant

Born and raised in Maui, Hawai'i, Nicole Slusser is a Visual Arts student currently based in Prague, Czech Republic. She attends the Anglo-American University and is working on a B.A. with a focus on curatorial studies. She has previously been a part of an artist collective that curated the Inter Anima exhibition in Prague’s Stromovka park in December of 2022. She is currently working on a new curatorial project coming in May 2022.

Artistic collaborators

soprano, library voice

Sofia-Tamara Shmidt alias AWALI is a Ukrainian-Polish singer, producer, and composer. She studied classical piano, singing, and choral conducting but made her mark in the Czech electronic music scene. Her music is an ethereal mixture of soft vocals, synthesisers, and musical experiments in the form of melancholic downtempo and dark pop-ambient. Her self-made visuals, music, mixing, sound design, and lyrics allows her to challenge boundaries between emotions. Her compositions are imaginative and poetic expressions of the finest nuances of feelings through the prism of sound.

application programmer

Jake Blumer is a software specialist interested in technological advancements and filmmaking. He has directed two short documentaries, The Huntsman, the story of a woman passionate about fox hunting, and Applicant Name: Robot, about robots taking human's jobs. He is the Assistant Director for All is Lost, a short film set about two knights and their journey to battle a marauder. He is a backend developer for Warfriends, a 3D mobile tactical shooter, and currently working on two unannounced game titles.

concepts and cosmic pools texts

Aaron Labaree is a journalist whose work has appeared in Slate, The Atlantic, Vice, National Public Radio, and other outlets. His work focuses on the intersection of environmental and political crises. He also writes on a variety of other subjects, including extremism, history, and art, as well as book reviews and essays. He has collaborated with Mika Johnson on a number of virtual reality projects.

composer

Ryan Lester is an internationally performed composer and longtime collaborator of Mika Johnson. Ryan has scored many of Mika's film projects including Resolutions: a commercial for Franz Kafka and feature film Confessions of a Box Man. Other recent clients have included The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah, 20/20, and the Helsinki City Museum. He studied composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and currently resides in California, where he's been composing music about water.

website engineer

Lipkovič finished his master's studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague. He is a web developer and filmmaker based in Prague and focused on websites, 3D animation, short films, video installations, and all the interdisciplinary possibilities. His works include One to one (2020), Operation Urban Warrior (2019), Memory (2018) and websites like animaceumprum.cz or republicofdreams.online. He also works in Studio Nechtík, a nail salon that specializes in extremely weird nail designs.

3D modeler

3D printing and additional 3D modelling

Divize - Prague

sound designer

Stine is a composer, programmer, and educator teaching at Oberlin Conservatory. Stine received Ph.D. and Master's degrees in Composition and Computer Technologies as a Jefferson Fellow at the University of Virginia. His work explores electroacoustic sound, multimedia technologies (custom-built software, video projection, and multi-channel speaker systems). His work has been mentioned in publications including USA Today, The Economist, and NPR. Stine performed on George Lewis’ 2021 album The Recombinant Trilogy, in The Amerikans web series, and the VR installation VRWandlung.

Goethe-Institut collaborators

project coordinator, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi

director information services for Goethe-Institut Central and Eastern Europe region, Prague

director information services for Goethe-Institut South Asia region, New Delhi

project consultant for virtual reality and film information database for Goethe-Institut headquarters, Munich

Academic Scholars and Consultants

consultant, Library of Elements

Mgr. Jakub Hlaváček, Ph.D. studied Religious Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University (Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He is the director of the Prague-based publishing house Malvern. He specializes in philosophy and alchemy in the age of the Renaissance and early modern times. He is the author of many translations (for example M. Ficino, G. Bruno, H. Khunrath, M. Maier, R. Daumal, R. Alleau, etc.) and articles about alchemy and literature and the role of the imagination. His recent publications are The Signs of Things: The Renaissance Theory of Signatures (2020) and Aslepius (2019) both co-written with Martin Žemla.

consultant, Library of Shadows

Anurupa Roy is a puppeteer, puppet designer, puppet theater director and founder of Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust. Her work uses puppets for psychosocial interventions in conflict areas like Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and Manipur along with Juvenile Remand homes. Roy has worked with youth and women across India using puppets to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and gender issues. Roy is the recipient of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in Puppetry, the Sangeet Kala Kiran Puraskar, and the Shankar Nag Theatre awards.

consultant, Library of Shadows

Gunduraju is a traditional leather puppeteer from Karnataka. He has got 50 years of experience and has performed more than 25000 shows at a national and international level. He has won a silver medal in the 3rd Delphic Game held in Korea on 2009 September 15. He is a Jnana Vijnana Awardee by Karnataka Janapada Yakshgana Academy and Rangabharathi Awardee from Nataka Academy. Gunduraju Ji has also received Ranga Kousthubha Award by Ranga Sangeetha Parishath and S.K. Khreemkhan Award by Sahithya Parishath.

consultant, Library of Navigation

Christina Thompson is the author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, winner of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and the 2019 NSW Premier’s General History Award. Her memoir, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, was a finalist for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. A dual citizen of the United States and Australia, she is the editor of Harvard Review.

voice performer and consultant, Library of Navigation

Kuuleilani Reyes is a Native Hawaiian, born and raised in Hawaiʻi. Kumu hula (master hula instructor) John Keola Lake trained and graduated her as a kumu hula. She is a Hawaiian language speaker and oli (chant) composer, and has been called on to share her knowledge of traditional hula, oli (chant), and Hawaiian language at home and in Mexico City. She composed and recorded her chant, He Lei No Kuʻu Home Kulaiwi, for the cd, Hoʻopono. Reyes is an educator.