Students create Babel exhibit in Worcester State University's Dolphin art gallery.

‘Babel’ Depicts Over-Consumption and Chaotic Communication

October 27, 2016
By: Worcester State University News

A modern sculpture exhibit using recycled materials and other items usually considered “junk” is taking shape in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery at Worcester State University. It is the culminating project of 11 students in Professor of Visual and Performing Arts Catherine Wilcox-Titus’ Undisciplined Art class.

While it may look undisciplined on the surface, the exhibit is an interpretation of the Biblical story about the “Tower of Babel,” which links the construction of a tower with a sudden shift from a single-language society to a multi-lingual world. The “Babel” exhibit will run from November 17 to December 8.

Wilcox-Titus received some inspiration for the sculpture from observing the 2016 presidential election. “In this election, people are not communicating or listening to each other,” she said. “Language has become dysfunctional.”

Students in her class also emailed her pictures of art exhibits also titled “Babel” for additional inspiration.

Through the sculpture, Wilcox-Titus and her students offer a commentary regarding consumerism and the short life span of modern consumer electronics. “The consumer life cycle has sped up, especially when it comes to modern electronic communications,” said Wilcox-Titus. “Things we consume become outdated very quickly.”

The “Babel” sculpture also inspired a new way to use the gallery. “We’ve never used the gallery as a studio before, and, for many students, it’s their first time working with repurposed and recycled materials to make a sculpture,” said Wilcox-Titus. “This exhibit is unique in we are using things which otherwise might end up in the trash.”

The exhibit’s construction includes a wide variety of recycled materials, including Styrofoam, packing boxes, plastic milk crates, electrical cables and wires, and obsolete computer and telephone parts.

Wilcox-Titus stressed the exhibit is one large, inter-connected sculpture rather than a series of individual ones. “This is a collaborative project among all the participating students,” she said. “Everyone in the class has a say in how the exhibit is created.”

The linguistic significance of “Babel” comes from the exhibit’s incorporation of several working speakers that broadcast sounds, drowning each other out and increasing the element of confusion. To add to the communication overload, students pasted pages of old books onto boxes in the sculpture—more words, more chaotic communication.

Working on this exhibit is a departure from a standard VPA art class. Normally, a student creates several sculptures over the course of the semester. For this class, all the students worked together on a single presentation.

“My favorite part of the project is seeing the students problem-solve their way through the challenges posed by creating a large sculpture in a short period of time,” said Wilcox-Titus. “I also enjoy seeing them come up with their own ideas about the kinds of materials to include in the sculpture.”

The opening reception for “Babel” will be held on November 17 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 508-929-8651 or visit the gallery web page.

Written by Paul Fontaine, a marketing and public relations intern in the VPA Department

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