Conference Post #1: Overwhelmed by Fact

My conference project is centered around the theme of being overwhelmed by facts, more specifically statistics concerning the state of Syria and Iraq during their “war” with the IS. On TV and through other media sources we are reminded of the horrors that occur in places that are safely contained in the frames of our devices. We never expect to experience the horror, much less think about it in any more terms that the “factual evidence” given to us. More attention is paid to the numbers, the data that events produce, rather than understanding or even delving into their constructive nature—it doesn’t so much matter why the IS is on the offensive, but the deaths, or more correctly the number of deaths, is what we use to measure our horror. I want to highlight the many aspects of life in the war effected areas that go unrecorded- just because a country is at war does not mean that war is what constitutes it, I plan to bring to the viewers attention the “invisible” but very real, statistics of the lives lived as a juxtaposition to the overly paid attention to negative “death” aspects of war. It is hard to begin giving agency and legitimacy to peoples or cause if they are only seen as victims (like most of the effected peoples in Syria & Iraq), the other that must be saved. In order to engage this conflict I want to create a structure that will be an interactive (sort of) sculpture/installation intended to overwhelm the senses on the issues of war (paying particular attention to the IS situation in Syria and Iraq) using the most beloved tool of news reporters: statistics. The structure itself will be a large rectangular structure that a person can enter and be able to turn and view all sides. As the person enters the first thing they will encounter is a screen with slowly increasing numbers, this will reflect the real time death toll [one person every 10 minutes, 3 people become refugees every minute]. This will be the first jarring image, I want the viewer to be consumed at first by this changing number, it should disturb, but then encourage the eye elsewhere. Behind the screen will be a chicken-wire fence (attached to the metal structure) with barbed wire on top. Through the holes of the fence will be very gorgeous pictures of the places destroyed and pillaged during the fighting (many Babylonian and Assyrian sites have been damaged, temple of Ur, Mosul) to really create that sense of unease—you are seeing at once both the rising death count and the beauty that there was, diminishing more and more as each number changes. Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 1.28.29 AM The walls on either side will each also have monitors and will be playing scenes of violence from the wars on loop, volume on. This will be accompanied by stereos that will be within the structure that will provide a constant mélange of sounds and voices (guns, bombs, traditional singing, birds, prayers, political activists speaking, riots, chants, children…), in conjunction with the monitors the auditory as well as visual effect of this collaboration will hopefully overwhelm the viewer. On the walls behind the monitors there will be recorded statistics regarding the two countries and the area on varying topics that do not necessarily pertain to the horrors of war, but still reflect its impact (such as, how many marriages were performed? Or how many houses had lights in the evening, how many olives were cured? How many students graduated?) to contrast the blatant war and violence being shown on the monitors, the ticking death toll flickering in the periphery. Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 1.28.50 AM  Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.29.39 PM With the way we are bombarded with images, statistics and “data” in our everyday lives, we do not pause to think perhaps their true importance or weight- the only difference between 200 people being dead and 1,000 is the amount of breath you take to say it, it doesn’t really affect you any less or more. I want to take the singular statistic and make the viewer engage with it in the multiple- will you feel it more if it’s bigger? We take in world horror so easily because to many, it’s just a number, but what happens if we multiply? One becomes movies and shots and screams, laughter and agony. By bombarding the viewer with all the information s/he is paralyzed, forced to stop and really look, look at war (the screens), and look at everything you’ve missed (the backdrop).
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right and left side panels with background statistics, right side Syria, left side Iraq

close up of two panels

close up of two panels

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blue-print (ish) sketch/construction plans