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.