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Everything Matters

Paul Kos: Tower of Babel

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Paul Kos: Tower of Babel, 1989; 20-channel video installation; 24 x 18 x 24 ft.; collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; photo: Ben Blackwell.

“A retrospective of (Kos’s) work is a unique piece of installation art in itself, and the cumulative cacophony is its soundtrack.”—Lindsey Westbrook, East Bay Express

As you descend from MACROMATRIX in the lobby into Gallery B, a more cerebral but equally compelling noise emerges from Paul Kos’s fantastic Tower of Babel. Exhibited for only the second time, and the first at its full height of twenty-four feet, Tower of Babel is a Vladimir Tatlin–inspired metal ramp with twenty video monitors featuring seventy-six people speaking fifty different languages. Only when a viewer is directly in front of a monitor can a particular speaker be heard over the din. Several of Kos’s foreign students from classes at the San Francisco Art Institute appear in the piece, which also evokes the artist’s upbringing in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where Eastern European, Basque, Italian, and Finnish communities lived side by side.

Tower of Babel will remain on view following the exhibition’s close through the end of 2003.

Everything Matters: Paul Kos, A Retrospective is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Agnes Bourne. Additional funding is provided by Paule Anglim, Ann M. Hatch, Joan Roebuck, and Jeanne Meyers.