The tale of the Tower of Babel – mankind gets ideas above its station, builds a massive tower, and is punished by being divided by loads of different languages – has fascinated artists down the ages from classical painters to Brad Pitt. Now Widows, a new collaboration between experiemental musical producers Jams F. Kennedy and Bobby Evans, has given it a new twist as part of the Beck’s Green Box Project, dubbed the world’s first augmented reality art gallery. We caught up with the guys to find out more.
Their commission, called Tower of Text features a dynamic, colourful cascade of fonts, backed with a specially-written score the duo have created to complement the collision of ancient story and cutting-edge technology.
Hi guys. Why do you think The Tower of Babel is a story that continues to resonate with artists? What are the challenges involved in remimagining such a well-known tale?
One element that makes this story ring out to these times so well is that it seems to predict globalization. But the story is a parable, not a prophecy. At all times throughout history, the known world has felt like the whole world. Stories like this one – especially ones this old – offer some consolation to those who think the sky is falling. It’s not that it’s not falling, but rather that it always has been.
Was it a case of of working on the music and the visuals separately or together?
Together. We approach all of the media we work in basically the same, everything falls under the basic categories of either language or design. Because of the Tower of Babel prompt we began with, we got to be very literal in our treatment of this relationship between language and (in this case actual, physical) structure.
Had you worked with augmented reality before? Is it a medium you can see yourself working with in the future?
This is our first AR project, and we discovered it’s extremely well-suited to our approach. The sketches and concept sessions for this project actually generated many more ideas than this one that we want to chase down, so we’ll definitely do more with AR in the future.
You’ve had prime spots in downtown Manhattan and now Miami. Does that bring added pressure or is it a more exciting opportunity?
It doesn’t add any pressure at all. One should never make something as if it’s going to be seen. The only worse habit for an artist other than hoping for a certain audience is hoping not to have one. I (JAMS) was personally really excited about the location since I’ve been in NY for a little while now. It was a nice not-so-quiet arrival to have.