Tower of Babel

I spent the better part of the last three days making an 8 second stop motion video — well, sort of. It would have been quicker if I had started with the program I ended up using, and if that program hadn’t been booby-trapped with the Ken Burns effect. At any rate, there is a tiny video at the end of this post.

I will start with still pictures first.

Tower of Babel was inspired by the widespread and increasing use of specialized jargon in such things as military reports, advertising, press reports, and big business. Modern bafflegab, the vocabulary used is designed to disguise reality by the use of words that don’t trigger instant revulsion and anger: collateral damage, downsizing, monetizing, human resource accounting. 

Each of the ‘pages’ of the book has a jargon word or phrase printed on it and has four slots so that the pages can be interlocked to form a tower. The slots are cut eccentrically, making any structure built with them doomed to ultimate collapse. The first copy —shown above— is one of a kind and made with handmade papers.

I got such a strong response to the piece that I decided to make a small edition. I chose commercial paper and card stock, and block printed them with the word BABEL before constructing the box and cutting the pages.

The printing blocks were made by gluing foam letters (the kind you can buy in bulk bags in craft shops and dollar stores) onto wooden bases.

Now, about the video: in 2008, Ed Hutchins gave a presentation to The Moveable Book Society in Washington, DC. It was called Raising a Ruckus and included images of Tower of Babel. As well as providing him with pictures of the book closed and open, Ed asked me to photograph the process of building the tower until it collapsed. He planned to make a little video to demonstrate the interactive nature of the piece. That never happened, and the file of images has been sitting in various memory banks ever since. As I planned to write about Tower of Babel today, I thought it might be fun to make a stop motion video with the pictures. I started with Keynote on my iPad, having seen a very clever animation made by Linda Dong.


The app gave me lots of control over image duration and transitions, but having completed it I found I did not have a way of uploading it that would guarantee everyone could see it. (I am sure someone out there is rolling their eyes and saying “You just need to … “) Anyway, I did brief trials with a couple of other programs and found that I could not make image duration short enough for my purposes. Finally, I went to iMovie. I think this program has potential for future projects although I did not find it as intuitive as Keynote. And, as many others have before me, I found the default setting for still images —the Ken Burns effect— intensely annoying and impossible to get rid of after your images are loaded. David found instructions online (about 10 o’clock last night), I deleted all my images, and did the whole process a second time. Without the Ken Burns effect.

So here it is: not really a stop motion (not enough images for that, and the camera moves more than once) but it gives you an idea of how the piece works.

I’m afraid I may have found yet another way to use up large chunks of time!

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in art, artist's books, book arts, Design, moveable books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tower of Babel

  1. Pingback: Babel 2016 | Byopia Press

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