|Originally, this “Babble Room” (babbelziek kamer) was set up in a shopping centre in Brussels—the city of language par excellence, one of the European community’s Towers of Babel and the capital of a country, Belgium, cut across by linguistic divisions. In a booth with tiny windows fitted out as a living room, furnished caravan-style and painted red, two people sit face to face, one a Flemish speaker and the other a French speaker, conversing in sign language. There is a series of five such pairs, each conducting a conversation lasting as long as Sunrise (1927), a silent film masterpiece by F. W. Murnau, which is being shown on two monitors inside the booth. Outside, two cameras film them in shot/reverse shot mode. Their dialogue is simultaneously translated and transcribed by a team of interpreters and stenographers. After a slight delay, the images plus subtitles in the two languages are projected on screens displayed in the shop.
Each link in this chain of meaning sends a message whose meaning alters slightly at each transmission, as in the “Chinese whispers” game. The installation interferes with the uniformity of communication demanded by business and requires an interplay of synchronised interpretations. Amidst this repetitively expanded image and the background noise, it highlights individual exchanges performed in silence and the work involved in attentive listening.
But the critical effect derives above all from the invention of a situation: taking the expression of reality TV quite literally, Babelkamer is a collective creative work; a live poetic choreography that leaves room for improvisation.
Babelkamer. FNAC City 2. Brussels 2007
90 min each
The Chatterboxes: Theo Soetemans and Florence Marion, Serge Vlerick and Rachid El Ouaghli, Bart Uzeel and Caroline Uzeel, Sofie Renson and Michel Rivez, Ingrid De Bruyne et Chantal Gerday.
Interpreters of SISB (Interpretation service of deaf persons of Brussels): Els Demarre, Lisiane Den Haerinck, Freddy Ficquere, Kattia Lattrez, Patrick Peeters, Michael Henin, Lise Artiges, Muriel Prevot, Samira Er-Rbie.
Typist and translations: Megbil Nora (dutch-french), Sophie Croene (french-dutch)
Camera: Stephane Broc, Katia Kameli and Jordi Colomer
Assistant director: Katia Kameli
Set construction: Christophe Van Damme
Executive production: BRXLBRAVO Wim Embrechts (general coordination), Charles Gohy, Wenke Minne (assistant)
Video Manager: Erwin de Muer
Technical video support: Bart Reinartz (Heuvelman), Fabian Bovenisty and Alex Ingels
Video post-prodruction: Adolf Alcañiz
Produced by: BRXLBRAVO (Brussels) and Maravills (Barcelona)
In collaboration with: Instituto Cervantes de Bruxelles Paco de Blas Zabaletta (director of cultural department) and FNAC City2 (Brussels) Jean-Benoit Cazenave (director), Lidwinne Van Leeuwe (responsable FNAC Belgique), Caroline Arts (responsable communication of magazine), Fabian Bovenisty (responsable TV), Alex Ingels (general intendant)
Mr. malik's Table (2008) Mario Flecha (pdf/eng)