The Tower of Babel

Artist: Guido van der Werve

Location: NDSM-Werf, Amsterdam-Noord

Commissioners: TAAK and Stichting NDSM-werf

At the invitation of TAAK, Stichting NDSM-werf came on board for a joint effort to assess the feasibility of the project ‘Nummer 19 - The Tower of Babel’ by Guido van der Werve. This project includes a landscape installation and a film, both set to take place at the NDSM-werf in 2021. 

The project ‘Nummer 19 - The Tower of Babel’ stems from Guido van Werve’s idea to create a contemporary tower of Babel, shaped like a hill. Two parallel paths wind around the hill, one ascending and one descending. Once you arrive at the top, you naturally continue on to the descending path. It is possible to continue walking indefinitely, without ever leaving the path or making a sharp turn. Van der Werve based the design of the path on the double helix staircase that he first saw in the Vatican Museum. The path on the hill is an inside-out version of this staircase.

Considering the many challenges faced by today’s cities, Guido van der Werve believes this is an appropriate moment to create a contemporary tower of Babel. Where the biblical tower of Babel reaches to Heaven, this hill-shaped tower goes beyond...  It is an endless path, without beginning or end, eventually leading to nowhere; there is no destination.

The project is a social experiment where the process is central and more important than the final product. Guido van der Werve will also create a documentary capturing the entire creative process, in which people face substantial challenges together. He also wants to use this material to create a video art piece: a hybrid of a performance registration, a cinematographic work, and real-life television. Shot by his own camera crew, this will be an artwork in its own right.

The Mondriaan Fonds provided a development grant for this project. During this initial phase, we will investigate the feasibility of the project. We will consider who might be relevant partners to this project, what is involved in the technical execution of an installation like this, and what steps are required to realize the project.