Biblioteca del Sol, High Mountain Library, Sierra Neveda, Spain © Alex Brimmell (dome builder)

Biblioteca del Sol, an update

The high mountain library project by Louis De Cordier

Veerle Devos December 2014
In 2010, high up in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, Belgian artist Louis De Cordier started an idealistic cross-border art & science project: the constructing of an ark containing important knowledge for future generations. End-of-the-World and Mayan Calendar people attached themselves to it, and in the run-up to the end of the world scheduled for 21 December 2012, there was a lot of media attention (see DAMnº24 for more on that). It made the Ark project famous. Indeed, the world didn’t perish, but something more beautiful happened: a community of cultural creatives gathered around the Biblioteca del Sol, convinced about building a more sustainable society.

The Biblioteca del Sol currently houses about 7000 books, and aims to stand as an inspiring symbol of human aspiration, emphasising sustainability as a core theme. The books are vacuum packed, in order to protect them from insects and climatic factors. “It’s a very long-term project – the preserving of knowledge for future generations. But the story does not end there: it is not only a library and a building, but also a movement.” Cultural creatives joined Louis De Cordier, who he describes as “a growing group of people worldwide who care deeply about ecology and saving the planet; about spirituality and self-expression. Worldwide, we’re an estimated 200 million by now.” Some people relocated to the Sierra Nevada to live a more self-sufficient life, following in the footsteps of De Cordier; others are young Spaniards occupying abandoned farms in the mountains. “There is a community of people who care about sustainability, permaculture, ecological agriculture, and autarchy, and they find each other here. The crisis seems to challenge them to discover alternatives for the failure of the economic system. Everywhere around here, you see vegetable gardens, for example, and social life has become more vivid, too, because so many people have lost their jobs and need each other to survive. They are more open than before and more willing to find alternative solutions. My feeling is that in times of crisis, people can better distinguish between main and side issues – going for what really matters and choosing what they really care about. They are better able to make radical choices, apparently. That all leads to even more creativity. Biblioteca del Sol is obviously a project that appeals to the cultural creative. In the mainstream world, the short-term and the quick-fix rules. The long-term view of this project gives more perspective.” Sol as a symbol for a sustainable way of life.
De Cordier was increasingly driven in that direction when after months of nonstop work to create the library and the building, he found himself close to burning out. He started to read the books he had been archiving, and an interesting personal thought-process began. “My new goal became to inspire other people in the creation of a better planet. We should look for the best way to handle the mess we have made of the world.” The artist is currently writing a book about his personal quest that will be launched at the end of 2015.
But is all of this to be considered art? “I don’t mind what it is considered”, retorts De Cordier, who, as the son of famous Belgian artist Thierry De Cordier, was launched into the established art circuit very early in his career. It now appears that he is completely removed from that scene. The established art world does not seem to pay any heed to the Biblioteca del Sol. “Contemporary curators do not see what I do as art, even though the Biblioteca del Sol is very contemporary and on topic – maybe it’s too close to reality for the art world. Walking around fairs, where the commercial art circuit shows what it has to offer, I see very few works that raise questions about the issues that concern me. For a cultural creative, those fairs have very little to offer. Moreover, in a crisis, collectors fall back on established artists from an older generation who have already proved that their works are a good investment. Many collectors are large companies, which are often not interested in emerging contemporary art. Significantly enough, it’s mainly physicians and surgeons who like my work. And my biggest fans are architects and designers. It is undoubtedly a sign of our times. The whole world is in transition, on a political, social, economic, ecological, and cultural level. The art world is also in turmoil – next to the rather conservative and commercial, established art world, something more contemporary is emerging. This is a very compelling moment in which to exist, a transition period. The Biblioteca del Sol fits very well in this era, with its search for new forms of life, also artistically.” One person who became inspired by De Cordier’s project is Finnish media artist Jan Ijäs, who is currently staying at the Biblioteca del Sol farm, along with many other artists who temporarily live there. Ijäs is shooting a film that will feature this project, along with a tower bell foundry in Galicia (northern Spain). Ijäs is an excellent adept of the times of transition described by De Cordier, since the movies he makes tend to break the traditional boundaries of fiction and documentary. His film will also be launched at the end of 2015. Clearly, what began as a cultural ark is broadening into the flagship of an impressive movement of cultural creativity.

On the 26th of December, Louis De Cordier will give a lecture about Biblioteca del Sol in which he will feature the past, present and future of the high mountain library. “The epic story of the library builders is about how to take up personal power in life. To gain control from within over your believes and actions, instead of being victim of a society drenched in confusion and destruction. I welcome you to come listen to the inspiring story of how several hundred people in the Alpujarras are building the future. Today, tomorrow and coming.”
W-O-L-K-E Art Residency, Floor 11, Vaartstraat / Rue du Canal 45, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, 26 December, 8 pm.  Sitting side by side, seatbelts on, eyes on the road; this scenario is history in the Volvo of the future. After all, the car is now self-driving and safer than ever. Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe focus on the interior and see the entire volume as the social domain of the traveller. What opportunities can the shared inner space offer en route from A to B? "The best conversations take place at the table over a good meal. In this cast-iron pan are all the ingredients for a pleasant trip. The pan symbolises allemansrätten, the Swedish principle of sharing. The material, form and iron mark on the bottom – Volvo’s logo – refer to the origins of the car."
Jan Ijäs
Louis De Cordier

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Veerle Devos

Veerle Devos (aka VOS) is a historian who has been active in journalism for many years, working with DAMNº since 2005. She's co-founder of the Office for Urban Reporting, a research centre and production house that investigates and communicates about 21st-century urbanisation. In her free time she’s preparing a personal travel guide for Portugal.

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