Speaking one language was living one language when they came together to build something that reached toward the above and beyond. In an utopia of unification and pure communication they were elevating themselves together. They were the makers of an axis of worlds, bridging earthly and heavenly, heavy and weightless, rough and holy, body and mind, mess of matter and the idea of perfection beyond such mess. The bridging tower would mean completeness, the unification of all that it meant to be. And its foundations and substance were the cooperation of its unity of builders. And communication made them one in their building, a whole of the parts. And they were making a whole of the parts of the universe, earth and sky. But, so the story goes, man has no right to such unity, or ultimately no such capacity. Some great force, whether from the earth or the heavens, shattered their plane of one language into shards of multifarious tongues. Each shard became alone, growing and modifying alone. There was to be no jigsawing. There was to be no single tower of completeness but millions of individuals, each in their own way reaching and crumbling, each standing alone. With such a fragmenting, so fragmented the links not only between divine and profane and between person and person, but between being and thinking, between person and self. They were left floundering in acquired and diverse language systems, seas of words that submerged the known world, that remain somewhat alien as an element, filling the gaps between bodies, filling mouths when they try to speak truth.
We are post-truth. So we are told, so we have been informed with such unrelenting frequency recently that even this term could be at risk of losing its meaning, of becoming only the sounds and shapes that make up its utterance, more verbal clutter littering the ether. Post-truth: it means words have overwhelmed us. It says they are treacherous, no longer nourish us with knowledge but instead suffocate with meaninglessness. As God before, truth is dead. Post-truth is the burdensome corpse of communication.
Abridged 0-49 is Babel, concerning the fall-out from the reactionary combination of two elements that have become fundamental in contemporary life: post-truth and social media. Our lives orientate around the aspiration for maximal connection. Online, it seems, is a parallel existence to our “real world” in which we are never alone, and where we have the capacity to speak out on a global platform, to anyone and everyone. But could it be that this new apparent root-system, this verbal deluge turbulent beneath each moment of our daily lives, leaves us ultimately detached? “Too much contact, no more feeling.”
Image: Dara McGrath: Kimbolton Cambridgeshire 2012 fom Cleansweep series. Located approx 2 miles outside of Kimbolton Cambridgeshire. This railroad siding was used for the temporary storage and then the transfer of chemical weapons to the Forward Filling Depots The forward filling depots were remote bases scattered throughout the area that housed large stockpiles of chemical weapons for which the British army were to use against the invading German army. Today Kimbolton is under agricultural usage and its predominant use is as a feeding place for livestock.
Abridged is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.