PROJECT PIAQ5454 – Gaia Radić

Gaia Radić, HR

Hanging “Gardens” of Babylon

The new media installation Hanging “Gardens” of Babylon takes an immersive approach to exploring the correlation of virtual, physical and pictorial space. It deals with the concepts of digital simulated landscape, and the role of organic nature in the context of modern “screen-filled” everyday life. It also questions what are the necessary characteristics of pictorial representations of architectural or natural spaces, in order for them to take on a virtual trait.

The motif of the Tower of Babel and its Hanging Gardens was chosen for several reasons. The first is the fact that the biblical story of the construction of the Tower is proof that man has always wanted to enter the immaterial layer of reality, and throughout history devises various ways to make it happen. As the original Bible story tells, it once represented that way building a tower heigh enough to reach Paradise, through which man could “touch” God, thus materializing the immaterial, and dematerializing himself. The today’s method for attempting to cure the same human fate is a digitized lifestyle in constant contact with technology, which is increasingly trying to separate us from one’s own physicality; through Metaverse, cryonics, data trafficking, and finally speculatively uploading one’s own identity to the Cloud, thus transporting oneself into complete immateriality and transcending mortality. 

This work raises open questions about how tall is the tower we’re building today, who is our God that we are trying to reach, and for what reasons us does he prevent us from it.

The second reason is the fact that the Hanging Gardens, conditionally speaking, are set by the slopes of the Tower, are on the globally accepted list of the Seven Wonders of the World. There’s a certain absurdity to this, since modern human civilization on a collective level doesn’t really know what the Tower looked like and if it even existed. The reason for this is the great amount of completely different pictorial interpretations that have been generated through the historical art periods, and which together do not offer any consensus in proving such a motive existed in physical reality. This gives the Tower and its Hanging Gardens a virtual trait, and through a hundred different pictorial representations through the ages, they actually begin to exist as ephemeral, non-physical and virtual space – only as a mere illusion.

This work examines the phenomenon of space as such, and the ways in which man can sense it and intellectually perceive it in the age of everyday use of sophisticated technology and the Internet. The work tackles the question whether virtual space is something which has existed since the dawn of time, and thus even since Biblical times, or if it is something that can be generated only through technology. This gave rise to the conclusion that virtuality is actually something unrelated to technology, and that technology is only a medium of its presentation through use of the cybernetic space. Virtuality is a phenomenon that man has always aspired to summon, in order to unsuccessfully to escape from his own corporeality, materiality, and mortality. Once long ago he used art, especially painting, to mediate virtual space, and through the painterly creation of pictorial space, he actually generated virtual space. In today’s technological age, spatial representations on the wall frescoes of the ancients temples are replaced by computer and smartphone screens, and pictorial space, used with the purpose of synthesizing the virtual, acquires a cybernetic property.

An important aspect of the work is also thinking about the organic environment and nature, and in which ways does the today’s homo technicus experience it, in a juxtaposition to the ancient man to whom nature was the primary space of everyday habitation. The result is a synergy of organic motifs with post-internet aesthetics, analog botany with speculative botany, and the synthesis of the virtual through the ancient pictorial – that is contemporary cyberspace.