This position paper discusses the field trip CNET took on February 15th 2008. The trip was to see Kutlag Ataman’s video instillation “Paradise and Kuba.”
The instillation involved two large rooms in the Vancouver Art Gallery. One room was filled with large flat screen TVs with residents of Orange County describing their lives and how they felt about things. The other half of the instillation was a room filled with various older televisions. These televisions had all kind of people from Istanbul telling their own kinds of stories.
I enjoyed the freedom of the exhibit. You could walk around taking in as little or as much as you wanted from each of the screens. If you found something interesting you could sit and have a good listen. If not, just keep walking. This is exactly what I did. I only paid attention to what I thought was interesting from the outside, window shopping for content. I started to walk towards the exit when I thought I had experienced enough.
This is where I started to feel a bit used. I felt like I had been used as a part of the exhibit, used to prove Ataman’s point. Without even thinking about it, I spent most of my time on the Orange County side of the gallery. I guess I stayed there because it was a lot easier to watch than the other side. The TVs were big and clear, there were earphones provided and it was all in English. The Kuba side was a lot different. The room was filled with a loud mash up of what all the TVs were blaring. It made you feel like you were in a room filled with 40 people trying to talk at the same time. The TVs were small and old. No one was speaking English. Without thinking, I had stayed on one side of the art gallery because I was more comfortable and maybe a little less threatened.
I think the message of Ataman’s exhibit was Communication. It is harder to listen when there are 40 people talking at the same time. People’s stories and opinions get lost if the medium doesn’t fit the viewer. I spent all my time taking in the information from the Orange County side because that is where I was most comfortable. I could focus on what was being said because I understood the language being spoken and I could use earphones to drown out any outside noise. The Orange country room also felt more accessible. I felt like I could watch every screen if I wanted. Not the same on the other side, there must have been double the TVs in the “Kuba” area. At a glance I assumed watching each one wouldn’t be possible.
Maybe listening to how Billy Graham got his big break wasn’t as important as what was being said in “Kuba.”
Maybe this is happening everyday.
Maybe important information isn’t getting the airtime it deserves.
Maybe if we read a paper tonight instead of watching “The OC,” we might learn something about the outside world.