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NYC: "BABEL" exploring language & the arts

If you have lived in the New York City area, you are probably aware that the adjective "diverse" can be a relative term; this city is largely diverse in its overall population makeup, not necessarily the geographical distribution of ethnicities and cultures. But certain neighborhoods defy the societal norm of community-by-race. Jackson Heights, in Queens, is one of them.

Situated just far enough from the main island to deter the flood of Manhattan exiles, but close enough in proximity to welcome commuters, Jackson Heights is an apex of cultural communities. More than half of its residents are immigrants. Known for its many gardens, it is perhaps a sanctuary for many New Yorkers from the high prices of Manhattan and the construction of older Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods. Given its novelties, the area is noted as missing one key element. An artistic community.

According to Hector Canonge, multimedia artist and executive director of the Queens Media Arts Development, the area isn't known for its art because it lacks the showing and retail spaces key to fostering art exhibition. To turn the tides, he fortunately acquired a space on 37th Avenue to curate BABEL. Inspired by the very aspect of Jackson Heights that makes the artistic community so rich—the inherent diversity of its people, and taking certain cues from the legendary city of Babylon, the exhibition engages the relationship between language and the visual arts:
Through paintings, illustrations, photography, sculpture, installations, video, performance and new-media, BABEL establishes connections between the written word and the recent explosion of immigrant conclaves in and around New York City. Selected works treat the diversity and plurality of the written language as reflected, incorporated, and/or appropriated in visual arts, performance, and the moving image.

Taking as departure the ancient name for the city of Babylon whose earliest mention was written on a Cuneiform tablet dating back to the 24th Century BC, and whose multicultural population is also referenced in ancient religious texts, the exhibition BABEL challenges artists to think about the written word in relation to their work and if possible, but not limited, to community and the immigrant experience. Unlike the ancient story where people unable to communicate failed to meet their goal, this exhibition uses the written word as catalyst for visual representations and inspirations of a greater and diverse society. BABEL will prompt artistic dialogue around selected works, and among artists as well as audiences.
Participating artists originate from all reaches of the globe, including (but not limited to) the U.S., Spain, Italy, Peru, India, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Korea, England, Ireland and China.

A work from BABEL by James Chen-Feng Kao:
untitled, 2010, 22" x 15", ink and photo transfer

The exhibit coincides with a larger effort entitled "June in Jackson Heights," intended to attract both locals and tourists to the area throughout the month.

Though the opening reception for BABEL occurred June 16th, visitors are still welcome to view the works until July 1.

For directions and to learn more about the Queens Media Arts Development (nonprofit), check out the BABEL homepage >>

"BABEL" at
Space 37

86-08 37th Avenue
Jackson Heights, New York 11372
United States
Monday - Friday 11 am - 9 pm
Saturday - Sunday: 1 pm - 9 pm.

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