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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:40

Video transcript

we're in the consistory gist Museum in Vienna and we're looking at preggos amazing painting the Tower of Babel I really love this paint it's just there's so much to look at it or reminds you that before movies before video paintings could be incredibly entertaining and here's an image that gives us so many little narrative so many things to look at it really does reward clothes prolonged looking so the story comes from the Bible men decided to build a building that would be so high that would reach into the heavens it would reach God and God didn't like that no not one bit so the way the God took care of this was sort of wonderful and elegant humanity had been one people up to this time but God said now he would define man I language so that when these men could no longer communicate with each other well the building couldn't rebuild but brenell-- is painting this now in the Renaissance and there's a different set of meetings yes the Bible is the underlying story but there's the politics of his era when we think about the Renaissance it's hard not to think about the massive building campaigns Bruegel himself is living in Antwerp an incredibly wealthy city that trades and luxury goods so in some ways this is about the dangers of man success all the things that we build all the things that we create all of the power and wealth that we have is really nothing before God I think Google makes that point rather nicely in the lower left corner of the painting where you see a king who's presumably the man who's ordering the building of this monument and you see the workers who are actually carving stone but also bowing down to him there's a kind of irony there because as the workers bowed down to him we know that this tower that they're building at his request is going to utterly fail and in fact it is failing right before our eyes and before theirs if only they would notice it - I mean even as it's being built it's so large that it's also falling apart in fact the whole tower although it seems so massive and so solid is leaning to the left slightly and it seems to be almost menacing the medieval city that's just beyond it there are some places where it seems very unfinished I mean if we look at the center there's uncut walk and then in other areas it looks completed in other areas that there's scaffolding there's the sense that it's rising and falling simultaneously you know the whole thing really looks believable you see winches and cranes hoist then sort of the basic construct itself seems to be loosely based on the Colosseum in Rome which Bruegel would have seen when he visited that city and so the whole thing really does seem as if it's possible and there is the sense that here in the Renaissance man has become so capable and one of the dangers of that I mean it is an issue that even in the modern era we still grapple with if you read science fiction it's always the robots and the computers that are the threat right and in a sense this is an older take on technologies that were perhaps too big for us men look like ants everywhere here you get a sense of trade you have a sense of materials coming from afar in the ships on the extreme right you see a large castle but it's completely dwarfed by the massiveness of the tower itself there's a total sense of futility here everyone is doing something everyone is building or carrying or carving or climbing or doing something to make this happen and yet as they're so busy we know that it's all for naught and so there's a sense of the complete futility of human endeavor and even while we know that futility is central there's still an absolute love of the investigation of the building itself we really have bradle the architect here the tower is so fun we want to go into it we can see through it and into the arches and spaces and windows and we want to know what it's like inside it's a dreamlike space that is incredibly seductive so in a sense it's a kind of entrapment Bruegel is giving us this wonderful seductive environment and then he's telling you you don't want to do this this isn't all right it seduces us and entraps us and it's really difficult to pull your eyes away from it