commissioned for Babel at the Ikon Gallery
“When I was there a little kid chuckled away
with gleeful hilarity at it all”
Robert Clark – The Guardian 19/10/99
Polyglot was commissioned by the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham,
UK) for the show Babel – contemporary art and the
journeys of communication.
The piece is concerned with artificial or constructed
languages which have been invented over many centuries in
attempts to allow communication between speakers in
Despite much effort, by many individuals and groups, it is
reasonable to say that there is still no universal language
with which we can all communicate.
Polyglot graphically demonstrates these repeated failures,
by way of a classroom of animatronic toy parrots.
Authoritarian looking tannoy speakers shout out the names
of several invented language, Esperanto, Interlingua, Ido,
Volapuk, and the parrots repeat them back amongst
themselves, the speech becoming ever more distorted until
it ends in a meaningless babble. The whole cycle is then
repeated with another language, in much the same way as
humans have continued to come up with fresh ways to aid
communication, which despite the high intentions seem
doomed to failure.