A Note on the Site's Image
The image chosen to be the icon for the blog is a sketch for a reconstruction of Tatlin’s Tower. Vladimir Tatlin designed his famous tower as a monument to the Third International and its future headquarters in Petrograd. The tower was never built — in fact, speculation remains over whether its construction would have been structurally possible. The Tower then stands as a monument to a modernity that failed to be realized, not only because of the tower’s ghostly existence in models and sketches but also because of the failed promise of a modernity that could accommodate such a structure.
Others have noted its similarity with Brueghel’s painting of Babel. If the end of the Tower of Babel is the beginning of the problematic of human communication across places and times, Tatlin’s Tower represents both the modern hope for completing such a project and, again, its impossibility. With Babel, the violent end of one project is the beginning of another epic of discovering relation through linguistic possibility.
Its spiral structure cannot help but remind us of DNA’s double helix, a structure that would be discovered in the 1950s. If today we are accustomed to thinking of “genetics as fate,” it is helpful to recall that the gene is the site both of preservation and mutation, the transmission of the past and the eruption of the new as its combinations and variations. Within what has already been built, made, and enacted as modernity is a “genetics” of the past. Decoding its infinite sequence not only draws us into our history but indicates possibilities for renewal, variation, and mutation.
The site’s logo of a tower is an emblem of modernity haunted by genesis. But as both the myth of Babel and the image of the gene remind us, the origin is not at the beginning, but in the middle. The origin is a moment of divergence, and genealogy is the inquiry into how we might recognize these differences, variations, and correspondences. The Genealogies of Modernity blog hopes to invite contemporary scholars not only to tell a story of the modern world as we know it, but of those modernities that were not to be or have yet to fulfill their promise.