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Babel is a site specific work for a non-site. The context of the work is non-physical. The site is an abstract thing...information space and the taxonomy of knowledge that all libraries represent...which the Internet, where the project is realised, is.
The Dewey Decimal numbering system, used in the cataloguing of library contents, is the key metaphor, visualised in a three dimensional multi-user space that is itself a metaphor for the infinite nature of information.

In Babel the Dewey Decimal system is used as a mapping and navigation technique. The structure of the library is re-mapped into the hyper-spatial that constitutes the Web. The Dewey numbering system is employed as a means to navigate the internet itself, the taxonomy inherent in the numerical codes mapping onto web-sites that conform with the defined subjects.

The Dewey Decimal system is based on two concepts; firstly that each area of knowledge can be defined as a number and that the space between each numbered area is infinitely divisible. This allows the cataloguing system to be both navigable in its subject headings whilst able to contain an infinite number of potential entries in the catalogue. As such it is a simultaneously finite macrocosmic and infinite microcosmic system.

In Babel viewers logged onto the site are confronted with a 3D visualisation of an abstract data space mapped as arrays and grids of Dewey Decimal numbers. As they move the mouse around the screen they are able to navigate this 3D environment. All the viewers are able to see what all the other viewers, who are simultaneously logged onto the site, are seeing. The multiple 3D views of the data-space are montaged together into a single shared image, where the actions of any one viewer effects what all the other viewers see. If a large number of viewers are logged on together the information displayed becomes so complex and dense that it breaks down into a meaningless abstract space.

Viewers are able to generate specific Dewey Decimal numbers, a dynamic interface keeping them informed of web-site (source:
  • genres
    • database art
  • subjects
    • Art and Science
      • algorithms
      • databases
      • representation of knowledge
    • Arts and Visual Culture
      • poetry
      • representation
      • theory
        • complexity
    • History and Memory
      • archives
Technology & Material
Installation Requirements / Space

a data browser by
Simon Biggs

Introduction by Steve Dietz

artist's statement

commissioned by
Focal Point Gallery

server-client communications software engineered by Julian Baker @ Flatearth

supported by Southend on Sea Borough Libraries, Essex Libraries and Suffolk Libraries.
funded by East England Arts and the Arts Council of England New Audiences Fund

also supported by Consortium Hosting


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copyright 2001