The Story of Babel | Tate

The Story of Babel | Tate


Babel 2001 is a tall sculptural
installation by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles It is a circular tower made from
hundreds of secondhand analog radios that the artist has stacked in layers The height of the tower can vary according to the dimensions of the room in which it is installed In the display at Tate Modern it is approximately
eight meters tall The radios are tuned to many different stations They are each adjusted to the minimum volume at which they can be heard Even so they compete with each other and create a cacophony of low
continuous sound resulting in inaccessible information voices or music Older radios form the bottom of the tower These objects date from the 1940s They’re large bulky units made up of
materials such as dark wood and brown bakelite, an early plastic Some of them are in an art deco style and are as large as cabinets or small pieces of furniture Generally speaking each layer of radios is made up of a similar or identical style As they progress up the tower the layers of radios become more modern The radios become smaller, more powerful In the upper parts of the tower we find
the more modern radios made in the 1990s These are made mainly of silver colored metal and plastic Many of the radios have small lights as component parts On the older sets there are illuminated valves, dials and screens On the more modern sets there are LED on/off and station indicators This arrangement
moving from large to small up the tower creates an interesting effect of perspective It exaggerates our sense of the tower’s height As the radios decrease in size the further up the tower they are located In the display at Tate Modern the tower is installed slightly off-center in a darkened room It is bathed in an indigo blue light that together with the sound gives the whole
structure an eerie effect and adds to the sense of confusion In describing this work Meireles refers to it as a tower of incomprehension The artist relates it to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel This was a building constructed almost tall enough to reach heaven This offended God who as a result
made the builders speak in different languages Their inability to communicate with each other made them divided and they
scattered across the earth The Tower of Babel therefore became the source of all of mankind’s conflicts The artist has explained that the work took over ten years to complete Babel began in 1990 on Canal Street in New York There were 11 years of notes before I finally realised the work in 2001 in Helsinki Upon observing the quantity and diversity of radios and all the different types of
sound objects that were sold on Canal Street I thought of making a work with radios Radios are interesting because they are physically similar and at the
same time each radio is unique The noise produced by Babel is constant However the exact mix of voices, music and information is always changing No two experiences of this work are ever the same

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