Broadcasting from Cildo Meireles’ Tower of Babel at London’s Tate Modern

Broadcasting from Cildo Meireles’ Tower of Babel at London’s Tate Modern

Broadcasting from Cildo Meireles' Tower of Babel at London's Tate Modern
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For those familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel, it is a story with an outcome that continues to resonate in modern times. The quest by man to reach God through hubris and in their own strength. The original story began in Babylon (modern day Iraq) after a flood had destroyed the earth and Noah’s descendants had began to fill the earth. These descendants decided to build a city and a tower whose top reached “upon the heaven.” God was not impressed for by his devine calculations “nothing will be restrained from them.” God’s next move was to scatter them abroad and to make them speak different languages. The people, in their confusion, gave up on building the tower.
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Broadcasting from Cildo Meireles' Tower of Babel at London's Tate Modern
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In Cildo Mereiles’ Tower of Babel at the Tate Modern, the artist used different sized radios to build an illustration of the biblical Tower of Babel. As I meditated on the exhibition I was drawn to the significance of using radios as the building blocks. Like the biblical Tower of Babel, Cildo Meireles’ Tower, in my interpretation, artistically likened our efforts in the modern world to find fulfilment through broadcasting just as Noah’s descendants tried to find their fulfilment in reaching heaven.
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Broadcasting from Cildo Meireles' Tower of Babel at London's Tate Modern
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Broadcasting in all its forms from radio, tv and more recently social media has become the central piece of our lives. It is not an exaggeration to think of ourselves as mini narcissists in love with sharing our opinions with whoever might lend their ears to us. Gone are the geographical boundaries of yesteryear. A tweet could just as easily be sent from the proverbial Timbuktu and may indeed end up going viral in the Americas or Europe. Instagrammers in ice cold Scandinavia are just as likely to “love” or comment an “I wish I was there” photo of a Caribbean beach as I am likely to “like” a post written by a Syrian on Face Book. The idea of seeing our followers increase fills us with a semblance of fullfilment and gets us more hooked. Somehow our broadcasting language is becoming increasingly universal. A photo of a cat on instagram gets us all, regardless of geographical location, going ….awwwww.
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Could Cildo Meireles’ Tower of Babel ¬†symbolise our post Noah Tower of Babel? Has the craving and obsession to get our voices heard become our over-extension of the boundaries God placed upon us? I believe time was a significant factor in God’s wrath against the people of Babel. They could never have gotten to the heavens, however, by turning the building of the Tower into the be all and end all they created an idol that took away all their time. Therein lay their fault. As the symbolism of Cildo Meireles’ Tower seeps into my consciousness, I wonder if my own voice as it booms from the various broadcasting platforms and engages with folks from the four corners of the earth has become building blocks of a Tower of Babel. Do I have it in me to stay away from social media or this blog long enough to stop it from becoming an idol?


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