STUDY ROOM | 06.11.2024

On the Power of Communication

Two well-known Bible stories attest to how important it is to be able to understand each other, or ideally to speak a common language, and how disastrous it is if people do not (or no longer) understand each other at all. Thus, the Old Testament account of the Tower of Babel tells of the confusion of tongues that God imposed on mankind, which led to insurmountable communication problems, while the New Testament story of the miracle of the Pentecost speaks of an all-encompassing understanding among the apostles.

However, this immense power of language is not only described in isolated biblical texts. The very fact that the Bible was translated into the vernacular languages set free unimagined forces which still have an impact today. Last but not least, the invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century ensured that translations became faster and more precise, and that knowledge became accessible everywhere and to everyone—thus also ensuring that there was greater communication and understanding among people. Indeed, the Bible itself is a fantastic example of the power and powerlessness of the word, of elitist restriction and of massive spread of knowledge, of marginalization, access, and inclusion.

With the aid of exemplary objects, the showcase exhibition in the study room traces the interplay of speech and speechlessness, of communication and misunderstanding. 
Tobias Verhaecht, Blick auf den Turm zu Babel, 16. Jh. | © Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen