‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad’ (Nimrod; in. Genesis 11:4)
Imagine a unique metropolis surrounded by triple ring walls with the impressive Ishtar Gate and inside the city’s glorious tower, the massive pyramid-like ziggurat and the Marduk temple, covered with lapis lazuli and adorned with large bronze horns radiating in the sun. These magnificent buildings were the pride of the Babylonians, but also the source of the myth of human pride and fall, as the impressive and powerful walled city enhanced the prestige, and revealed the human vanity-motivated conquest for power and glory. This is why God intervened according to the legend and confused the languages, which caused the construction process of the Tower of Babel to cease. The myth of Babylon has travelled for millennia and symbolized man’s arrogance and fall, debauchery and disobedience to God’s will. It is such an indelible symbol that we have almost forgotten that Babylon was an actual metropolis; a political and cultural centre of power, and is not least one of the seven wonders of Antiquity.
Our exhibition Babylon pursues the fundamentally contradictory relations inherited in the metropolises of today. We at the gallery love our metropolises all over the world. We are fascinated of their beauty as well as ugliness, and of the human relations that goes with it. It is here in the cities we get to enjoy and experience the major current issues in a very real and interesting way; like air pollution, water shortages, sustainability, immigration, cultural differences, human vanity, arrogance and debauchery, etc.
The four artists; Shinya Ishida, John Knuth, Mette Vangsgaard and Anna Bak, are from different cities in the world, and each in their respective ways, they show us how human relations and the city, that nurtured and inspired them, is woven into the very thought processes of their work. The developing socio-undercurrents we experience in the city produce mesmerizing and somewhat disturbing beautiful results in their respective artistic universes.
For Shinya Ishida collecting trash from containers, streets and backyards in a given city is a crucial part of his work process, in which discarded objects from different consumer cultures are merged together and combined in beautiful total installations, sculptural and pictorial works. Whereas his works undoubtedly embody an environmental statement, they also display an appreciation of the aesthetic potential that lies within the objects and materials, as the objects are transformed and combined in surprising ways creating references to Japanese religious symbols as well as popular culture.
Combining mirrored Mylar material with cardboard signs bought over the course of a decade from the homeless population of LA, John Knuth offers us a glance at the ever-changing and ever-contradictory landscape of Los Angeles today, as the artist envisions it. He sees the homeless signs as touching self-portraits of the people holding them. They are honest drawings with profound statements like ‘Anything helps’, ‘Please help’, ‘Hungry’, etc. Over the past several years homelessness in Los Angeles has exploded. This is, as the artist points out, ‘the new landscape of LA – not the palm trees’. Mette Vangsgaard is interested in the relationship between man and his/her surroundings. This interest takes both the form of modern man’s encounter with nature and man’s everyday life in dense urban environments. Her works depict relations in social strata and deal with issues such as pollution and globalization. Situations are often created in her works, which seem to be a reflective space in terms of human tendencies.
Anna Bak is interested in stories that are based on the classical conflict between nature and culture as well as socio-cultural paradoxes, in particular post-industrial melancholy associated with the loss of harmony with nature or ‘original culture’. For Babylon she has produced a new line of sculptures that use the negative forms from packing protection. By filling the empty space, that was meant to hold a valuable and fragile item, with solid materials like plaster and wax, she comments on consumerism and aesthetic value vs. the capitalistic value.