Arts The Spirit of Cities
Most of Julee Holcombe digital photographic compositions are bad (what she does to Vermeer is an excellent example of what Hume called, in his analysis of aesthetics, “bad taste”), and so the greatness of her revision of Bruegel’s 1563 painting “The Tower of Babel” is entirely accidental.
Out of this:
Bruegel’s art is mad and beautiful, and few paintings capture the madness and beauty of the human will better than a “The Tower Babel.” In the world there are only two types of great cities: Athens and Babylon. New York City is Babylon; Seattle is Athens—though a part of Seattle wants to become Babylon, which will never happen, and besides, being Athens is not at all a bad thing (Jerry Garcia’s Denny Park proposal has this as its most powerful meaning—to finalize Seattle’s spiritual continuation of Athens by giving us the Acropolis).
Holcombe’s digital revision (or revisit) is successful because it brings to the present the forces at work in the past, in the image by Bruegel. The spirit of Babylon, a spirit that will be around for as long as humans are around, is this congestion of towers and people. “Too much/too many people/too much.”