What is astro-culture? In The Babylonian Planet it is unfolded as an aesthetic, an idea, a field of study, a position, and a practice. It helps to engineer the shift from a world view that is segregated to one that is integrated – from global to planetary; from distance to intimacy and where closeness and cosmic distance live side-by-side.
In this tour de force, Sonja Neef takes her cue from Edouard Glissant’s vision of multilingualism and reignites the myth of the Tower of Babel to anticipate new forms of cultural encounter. For her, Babel is an organic construction site at which she fuses theoretical analysis and case studies of artists, writers and thinkers like William Kentridge, Orhan Pamuk and Immanuel Kant. Her skilful interrogations then allow her to paint a portrait of art and culture that abolishes the horizon as a barrier to vision and reclaims it as a place of contact and relation.
By combining the Babylonian concept of the encounter and the planetary concept of the whole-earth, Neef creates a space – an astro-culture – in which she can examine topics as varied as language, translation, media, modernity, migration and the moon. In doing so, she instigates a renewed cultural understanding receptive to the kinder forms of cultural encounter and globalisation she hopes will come.