Limerick, Ireland
David O'Kane, Babble, 2008, video installation, 30 minutes 44 seconds

David O’Kane


Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges and Flann O’Brien converse through quotations from their literature in their native tongues, thus condensing space and language temporally into a single discussion. This conceptual exercise appears to reverse the outcome of the Tower of Babel parable from the Bible, and yet to most viewers only one language is comprehensible. The incomprehensibility of the other two languages highlights the fundamental musical beauty inherent in the structure and sound of each sentence.

The choice of these three writers is intrinsic to the concept, because their writing imbues the fantastic with the plausibility of everyday life. Each writer deals explicitly with infinity and the implications of logical order in language and society. Babble highlights the immortality of these writers through the infinite repetition and the consumption of their words. The conceit of Babble references Borges idea that everyone can be Shakespeare, and Barthes’ postulation that literature and art is nothing but a spectrum of quotations. O’Brien preceded Barthes’ hypothesis, stating, ‘The entire corpus of existing literature should be regarded as a limbo from which discerning authors could draw their characters as required.’

The title Babble evokes connotations of the Tower of Babel. Babel was a city that united humanity under one language. In order to celebrate their achievements, they decided to build a tower that would reach the Heavens. God confounded their languages before the tower was complete. Babble is also a stage in a child’s language acquisition, during which an infant appears to be experimenting with uttering the sounds of language.

(Text: too early for vacation catalogue, 2008)

Back to Artists