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Friday, August 25, 2006

The Spirit of Cities

Posted by on August 25 at 14:25 PM

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:
1babel_wm_sm.jpg

Comes this:
1holcombe_babel_revisited_oc-1.jpg


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.”


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Another dreamy and poetic post Charles. I always loved digital art, and now I see that some of it is "bad". Although I struggle with the good art-bad art binary, your analysis makes sense. Thanks you made my day.

Seattle? Athens??

Har.

Tell me more about good taste, Charles.

Chicago.

Babylon or Athens?

minneapolis, athens; chicago, babylon.

Sorry, New York is Babylon and Athens too. Seattle is, at best, Thrace. An interesting outpost of civilization.

Lesbos, maybe, but I digress. Was checking recent issues of New Republic, and gagged at the illustration of an architect's projected project for the PRC. Anything that ugly can only be Koolhaas, I gasped, while trying not to hurl lunch. And of course it was.

And has anyone else seen the minivan city that sometimes parks in the U, c. 9th & 40th? Way more interesting than Mr. Mudede's post-modern Bruegel Babylon.

The Koolhaas library is the most important building in America. It put Seattle on the map. Inside the library feels like an airport terminal because it's a place for thoughts to take flight. The reason they don't have enough money to buy books is no one reads anymore, email terminals are the priority. It's the future.

"The Koolhaas library is the most important building in America ..."

Pumping irony, I presume.

But I admit the challenge of designing libraries, book repositories, for a post-literate society. That's why Seattle librarian Deborah Jocobs used a new "library" as the pretext for what she really wanted, a new monument to Deborah Jacobs. It's the Edifice Complex.

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