Babel
2023

 

 

Statement

Once upon a time, in a latter-day Babel, a curious artist created her own creation myth, contributing an original answer to the perennial question of how existence came into being. [This] is her version of Genesis, her vision of how it all begins. In a language of her own making, she communicates the ambience without words. As prima materia, she has convened seven books explaining some of the old stories about how we got here. Her genesis story as is often the case with stories, calendars, templates and temples is literally built upon seven previous versions. These books, among them the Bible and Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, were powerful towers broadcasting over space and time, in all languages, their particular message. Academia. Science and Biology. Archaeology and Palaeontology. Philosophy and Ethics. Religion. All pillars of Western civilisation, idols with feet of clay. With her scissors, the artist has cut through these dense and claustrophobic forests of knowledge, these treatises on good and evil, rendering the cacophony of Ages mute. The dogma days are over. But we are not yet out of the woods. 

   Extract from  ‘Seven Contemplations on Babel’, written by Miranthe Staden Garbett

Barbara Wildenboer draws from comparative religion and folklore as well as archaeo-mythology, an interdisciplinary methodology that focuses on human history and cultural remains through the lens of mythology. 

The exhibition consists of built structures and tableaux in which a diversity of cultural traditions co-exist in the form of idiosyncratic hybrids. Miniature photographs offer peepholes into strangely familiar, distant worlds. The montages and videos make reference to the established pillars of Western civilization, but these are dissected and turned on their head. Snippets of text from sacred writings, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the poems of the Sufi mystics, the I Ching, the Emerald Tablet as well as the hymns of Enheduanna (the ancient priestess of Ur), are intermingled with images of the disjecta membra of ancient worlds.  

The body of work speaks of stories passed on not only through these sacred texts and their translations, but also through oral traditions and the unverbalised stories that have over centuries been communicated and intuited through motifs, patterns and symbols. The bull, the lion, the spider, the owl, the twins, the mother and child, the snake, the fish, the bird, the circle, the triangle, the zigzag, the chevron, the spiral – all keep making their appearance. 

These and other common threads of a collective unconscious seem to repeat, in different languages, words, letters and symbols, across geographical space, time and cultural boundaries. Almost like the whisper of an ancestral code asking to be heard.