Caryatids and Atlantes, the sculptural figures that physically support buildings, often feature in Daphne Jiyeon Jang’s work. Whilst the models who posed for them might be forgotten, their immortalized forms effectively became the serfs who bear a city’s weight for centuries. In Jang’s own words – considering hierarchy, class and exclusion – this moving sculpture aims to, ‘unfreeze these sculptures from the prison of the past in order to imaginatively reconnect with them in the here and now.’
Babel – The Golden Boy builds from a previous work, Babel, and is constructed using virtual representations of Rodin’s The Thinker. This iconic sculpture has been reproduced many times with versions installed across the world. In Jang’s video, only one of these likenesses adopts the familiar meditative seated position, whilst the rest are uncoiled and made to support the weight of the tower of bodies’ supporting his activity. In the biblical story about the tower of Babel, God confounded the efforts of people trying to build a tower to heaven by giving them different languages so they no longer understand one another. Here, this silent work brings together ideas of knowledge and hierarchy, and the unspoken rules that keep society in place.
In this new version, The Golden Boy that stands atop Old College, housing Talbot Rice Gallery, climbs to establish himself as the emblem of Enlightenment. Originally created by John Hutchison
in 1889, the statue is based on Edinburgh boxer Anthony Hall, who was revered for his athletic physique. A popular and notorious figure around Edinburgh, the athlete later became a life model for artists, and has crowned the top of the University’s Old College for the
last 130 years. Modelled as a symbol of the enlightenment, with a physique wrought from the gritty life of a boxer, The Golden Boy is emblematic of learning and social mobility. With him only temporarily reaching the top of tower, in Jang’s work these ideals cannot be separated from a precarious sense of social hierarchies.
'Babel - The Golden Boy' was produced during the 2020 period of quarantine, when many countries around the world went into lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19. It’s a personal response to crisis, uncertainty, and altered states of being.