A quick idea I had for an art installation project titled “The Library of Doom”:

1. Collect and shelve one copy of all the books that have seriously prophesied some potentially real doom, but a doom that singularly failed to arrive. Ranging in time from Mathus to The Limits of Growth, The Population Bomb, etc. They can all be had for pennies as used books, on the likes of Amazon or from thrift stores.

2. Add a second room in the library for the more recent variants, which now effectively form a sort of semi-scientific version of the old literature of religious apocalypse. A thousand or more of these must have appeared in the past few decades — as Matt Ridley has ably pointed out, on largely phantasmal subjects such as…

population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics”

3. Add a third library chamber, through which the visitor progresses toward the exit, in which the shelves are empty. This represents the (similarly unfounded) alarmism that humanity will have to endure from doomists in the near future.

4. House and shelve the comprehensive chronological collection of the “Books of Doom” in a suitably charnel-esque library, perhaps partly arranged as a maze as well as a series of wide corridor-rooms. Add an illumined exit that evokes the feeling of “into the light, after darkness”.

gothic_library_by_c17508Picture: Gothic Library by c17508

If anyone wants to actually create this as an art installation project, or even as a hybrid art/library collection that also has research functionality, then please feel free to do so. I’ll give the idea under a “Creative Commons Attribution” licence, so just give me a credit. I’d estimate at least 3,000 books, if the artist-collector were to make a thorough job of it. Maybe more, if official reports etc were included. Total budget, including library construction, might be $10,000, not including pricing the time of the artist and an assistant or the hire of the site (which is considered to be donated for free).

It might be done for less if each book were represented only by the spine of each book, printed actual-size on card and then shaped to form a realistically-sized and shaped book spine. Though that would have significantly less impact on visitors than shelving the actual books. It could even be done as a virtual videogame-world space, using a game engine such as Unreal.