The Shape of Change, 2010
The Shape of Change archive is an online repository investigating the ability of language to describe change on a national level. It tracked how Iraqis and Americans professed their desire for change, democracy and freedom between 2008 – 1010, as the two countries attempted to disengage from one another politically, and how these concepts themselves changed over time in response to outside events. An interactive interface demonstrates commonality and disparity between records from different times and places across the US and Iraq, and allows viewers to visualize the ever shortening life span of political vocabulary, concepts and trends.
This project was produced concurrently with Music For Shiloh, an archive, notation and performance project documenting a child transitioning from infancy to agency, in their ability to learn both to speak and move decisively, and thus form the beginnings of individual subjectivity, over a two year period. The child, my son Shiloh Parnass, acquired language and the agency to speak fluently in two languages during the same two year period, 2008-2010, that the SOC project was exploring the evolution of political language used during the drawdown of the US / Iraq war. A series of one-minute video clips, recorded every month for 24 months until the child was able to speak fluently and describe what he loved, was rotoscoped into a series of images, each more abstract, leading to the creation of sound & music scores.
The project was produced in conjunction with the Vera List Center, who also supported an event where the artist AA Bronson, physicist Sean Gourley, and Zen priest Jules Harris discussed commonalities and differences amongst their philosophies of political change. An written exchange between Crean and Gourley, based on this theme, was published in the second Where We Are Now online journal in October 2009.
The Shape of Change Archive Social Book course examined how contemporary print material relates to those living in New York City and Baghdad. Students from Parsons The New School for Design’s Illustration, Communication Design and Technology programs worked together with students from the University of Baghdad to interpret The Shape of Change archive, a repository of American and Iraqi thoughts on the concepts of change, democracy, freedom and utopia, as compiled between 2008 – 2010. The precise form of the final deliverables remained open, allowing discussions of the current nature of the book and publication to be determined collectively as part of the design process. Newschool and U Baghdad students worked in pairs to create a series of artists books, data visualizations and collaborative video projects, that examined how notions of change and freedom outlined in the archive relate to the evolving nature of print and books in their particular locations.
Baghdad and New York City both have salient relationship to print. On March 5th, 2007, a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center for book arts in Baghdad, killing thirty people and injuring one hundred others. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the event did significant damage to the Baghdad literary community. New York has witnessed profound changes to the culture and economic structure of the newspaper industry over the past several years. Formal rivals The Daily News and The New York Post have discussed combining some aspects of their businesses. The New York Times, with the largest news staff in the US, has initiated cuts to its newsroom and general staff, and initiated a pay wall for its online content, significantly changing the manner in which news is both gathered and distributed.
The Shape of Change project was supported by the Jerome Foundation.