JMA : The Babel Project

Date: 2011
Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, Australia
Traveling Exhibition, Melbourne, Australia
Adriana Gomberg, Lukas Maehr, Georgia Metaxas, The Pod
Graphic and Exhibition Designer
Georgia Metaxas

Conceived by the Jewish Museum of Australia in collaboration with Hume City Council, Cardinia Shire, City of Port Phillip, Hobsons Bay Council and The Substation, The Babel Project is a three-year venture inspired by the famous story of the unfinished Tower of Babel, involving 36 participants from all over Melbourne. Participants from 15 countries around the globe, speaking 14 different languages between them, had the opportunity to take part in The Babel Project, involving workshops and creative collaboration with Melbourne documentary photographer Georgia Metaxas.

Georgia asked participants to convey what they have in common through photographic images of essentially ordinary and domestic subject matter. Using disposable cameras, more than 1000 photos of shared domestic commodities and environments including fridges, breakfasts, living rooms, couches, gardens, families, friends, shoes, the street and sky were taken by the participants. Together the photos make up a contemporary Tower of Babel installation along with a dense sound scape incorporating all 14 languages.

Adriana Gomberg, Jewish Museum Project Officer, herself a Brazilian migrant, says “For six months we worked in an artistic medium with participants who aren’t artists and who come from such extremely different cultures and backgrounds – it is really incredible to see how much these people actually have in common.” Jewish Museum’s Director Rebecca Forgasz says: “For the Museum, as a community cultural and arts organisation, to use art as a way of uniting disparate groups in Melbourne is a really wonderful opportunity. But more than that, it allows our own Jewish community to forge real and lasting connections with other communities.”

Set in Babylon, the story is about the building of an immense tower by the generations that followed the Great Flood. They spoke a single language. But the height and ambition of the construction displeased God who, as punishment, confused their languages and scattered the people over all the Earth.

It is this fable that inspired the workshops, run by Georgia Metaxas: “The grid reflects the repetitive nature of the images, embodying the power of language and illustrating the relationship between photographs and languages. The final piece – a composite person conveyed metaphorically through photographs.” The participants, Georgia Metaxas, The Pod, the Jewish Museum and project partners worked together to compile the suite of photographs, stories and languages to build the contemporary structure. (Text: Jewish Museum of Australia)

Download the media release here