Towers of Babble

Towers of Babble, porcelain, 2012-15

Most of these towers incorporate words lifted from a story written by Franz Kafka in 1917 called The Great Wall (Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer). The narrator of The Great Wall is a scholar who claims to have helped build the wall. He quickly dismisses an earlier scholar's view that the wall was intended to be the foundation for a new Tower of Babel, and recommends that one attempt to understand orders given by the High Command, but only up to a certain point, after which it is wiser to stop thinking about them. The story contains the notable passage known as A Message from the Emperor, after which the narrator speaks of a collective failure of the imagination regarding the Emperor/Empire and declares that to continue with his analysis would be to shake the foundations on which the nation stands; he breaks off at that point, as if to demonstrate that he, too, knows when to stop thinking.

Towers of Babble, detail