Friday, September 4, 2015

Babel Confounded

The myth of the tower of Babel, as told in the Book of Genesis, means to explain the origin of the different languages. A united people, of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar. Here they agreed to build a city and tower, intending to reach the sky, to keep the people united, and to make a name for themselves. Seeing this, God thought it an act of defiance, and confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other; and scattered them around the world.

From the beginning of mankind, language and writing have been important communication tools. The myth of Babel – the confusion of languages – seems to stress the need for a common language – which is what English has become in the last decades – with its rich literature, great political and scientific writings, and now the language of computing. I wanted to express this concept in my quilt. It is a Babel in reverse:  from many languages, we come to a common language.

This piece is composed of two main layers:

- The background layer is a composite of computer-printed cotton sheets, stitched together by machine, where both the colour (gradations), and the texts, come from tools in Photoshop. The texts in this first layer are in many languages; some are real languages – say like French and Spanish – while others are produced using fonts (downloaded free from the internet), which purport to be a different alphabet, but they are only ‘pretend’ (like Chinese or Hebrew).

- The second, overlaying, layer, is made of ‘flaps’ of silk organza, where further texts are printed, either using the computer printer, or Thermofax screens. The organza itself is hand-painted with diluted acrylics. The texts in this layer are all in English – now the universal language – and cover a wide range of subjects: literature, computer-talk, politics, science, etc.

- There is some hand-stitching holding the layers together.

I have used materials and techniques which are unusual for me. It fits within my subject of Magic and Science, as it ranges from the mythological to current reality.

Size: 40” high by 33” wide.


  1. Wonderful piece, Alicia - such beautiful, rich colors and blending of the layers. I love the use of text and the Babel in reverse. Interesting twist on the theme Magic and Science.

  2. I love this work, Alicia! I have always been fascinated by the myth of the tower of Babel. It is a meaningful and inspirational work. I like the techniques and layers you use in this piece. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. You have combined the new technologies in the production of the fabrics, with the old fable so beautifully Alicia. These challenges are producing amazing work!

  4. This piece is fantastic in its use of layers, text and meaning, Alicia. The colors blend so beautifully and add an additional nuance to the overall piece. Truly lovely!