Babel | NUKU


40 min|Young person, Grown-up|Estonian Art Museum KUMU Auditorium

LOD muziektheater

Floating along kilometres of glass,
from the thin air flowing between the building masses,
we see through a window the occupant,
plopping down on his bed after a long day.
Above, below and beside it, the same.
These are the daily routines of life as an atom.

Following Bildraum (2014) about the house and In between violet & green (2017) about the landscape, Steve Salembier sketches a portrait of the city in Babel. For Salembier, Babel is the city that contains all other cities, where the temporary has become a permanent state of being – where traveling and being on the move is a destination itself and where subway lines, escalators and elevators transform ordinary movements into rituals. Salembier dissects the 21st-century metropolis as an “inadequate biotope” in which the tension between the megalomania of the urban landscape and the downscaling of the intimate world of individuals is magnified.

Using scale models, photography, video and projection, he portrays how the relationships between individuals and their living environments are fundamentally changed and how we are constant subject to extreme conditions. Floating on the soundscapes of ZONDERWERK (Linde Carrijn and Dijf Sanders), Babel becomes a performance where breathing becomes the beat of the contemporary cosmopole. 

Due to the corona crisis, Salembier's research residence in Hong Kong was canceled. Reality seemed to catch up with the project and forced the artist, just as the rest of the world population, to observe the outside world only through windows and screens. It was a situation that prompted Salembier to rethink Babel: what if the confusion of tongues that descended on the Biblical city is not a divine punishment, but an invitation to adapt and change? As never before and on an unprecedented scale, the global crisis questions our conventional use of living and working spaces. Like the big city today, this Babel is an apocalyptic construction site. It has become both a proposal, an invitation and a question: how should we relate to this transformation?

Steve Salembier is an artist, actor, director and architect. He works at the intersection of visual arts and performance and addresses both the visual in the performing arts and the performative in the visual arts. In his artistic practice, image and imagination, time and space are the main themes. In his work, image-forming is always central and it is the imagination of the viewer that invariably provides the meaning. Salembier is not so much interested in the image in itself, but more in the processes through which images come into being; in the context and the space in which images appear and disappear. His work thus focuses first and foremost on the gaze with which images are observed, on looking and experiencing.

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