<

The Inner Conflict
Media Installation Project by Hazem Mahmoud Ali, Nadia Wernli & Shady Magdy

During the Egyptian Revolution, there were three main conflicts. The first was what happened at the roundabout between the revolution's supporters and opposers, the second occurred through the different projections of the media channels, whereas the third took place in almost every home; it was the inner conflict between going and not going to Tahrir Square.



  1. Abstract
  2. Concept
  3. Procedure
  4. Interactivity
  5. Implementation
  6. Observation
  7. Discussion

Abstract

During the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, we were mostly affected by the inner conflict between going and not going to Tahrir Square. Thus, we decided to visualize this struggle in an installation in which we would build a confusing atmosphere with interaction that would make people feel torn between two sides. An LCD TV with the different news channels, a projection with live views of Tahrir Square during the revolution and punching bags were part of this installation to intensify the inner conflict. Through webcams and lights, people's positions would trigger the opposite sides to call them to the other side. After evaluating our results, we can say that the confusion was achieved as lots of people would either stand still, too irritated to move or walk around from one side to another trying to find answers to their questions.

Keywords: Psychological and physical struggle, inner conflict, interactivity, Egyptian Revolution, Tahrir Square, 3D sound, projections.


Concept

The installation aims to recreate the experience of the Egyptian Revolution. The focus, however, will not be on the experience of being present in Tahrir Square but rather on the psychological struggle of making decisions and, especially, the inner conflict between going and not going to Tahrir Square.

Explore Concept Development


Procedure

Check Theoretical Setup

Scout Location C2.302



Provide Technical Equipment 1 LCD TV, 1 projector, 6 loudspeakers, 2, flashlights, 2 webcameras, 3 laptops.

Design Sound & Footage Material


Interactivity

When being trapped in an inner conflict and not knowing what side to take, it often happens, that once the decision is about to be made, the contra arguments just hit one all over again.

In order to visualize this mindset, we decided to add interactivity to our installation to intensify the confusion and irritation of the inner struggle.

Briefly, two flashlights and two web cameras were installed as an input to detect when someone crosses a certain area and in return play various sound files randomly as an output through the loudspeakers that would call the person to the other side.

In detail


Implementation

At the beginning, it was just Hazem and Nadia, but then, Shady joined the group.

Phase 1

Once the theoretical setup reached its final modifications, it was time to build up the installation. As we looked around in the room C2.302, we decided to make use of everything which was around before buying or borrowing anything additionally. The shelves were used as the skeleton of the installation and a long piece of black cloth which would usually be cut into pieces was used to cover them as whole. The black fixer bottles were used to hold the cloth in position. Aspects of non-intentional design became very clear while we were working as things lost their original context and function in our eyes and were just evaluated according to our needs. The shelves turned out to be a great choice as we could place projectors, speakers and our laptop in between behind the cloth.

We had already bought 10 punching bags 2 months ago. After Hazem sacrificed his breath on 5 of them, we asked around in university until we found the opportunity to pump them in the wood workshop in the B buildings. In return, we had to promise the workers that we would give them two of the punching bags after our project was completed.

After being placed back into the space, we felt that it needed to be more crowded and bought 5 more punching bags while decreasing the space to give it a rather circular than oval shape.

Phase 2

Everything needed to be fixed. The curtain was glued with wax to the shelves (which had the advantage of removing it afterwards without any damages to the cloth) and extension wires were spread over the space in a non-chaotic way. The webcams and flashlights were then placed temporarily on chairs to see how the punching bags would behave accordingly. In addition, the punching bags had to be sprayed black as their colourful appearances would have completely ruined the dark, conflicted atmosphere which were trying to create. This was done downstairs in front of the moulding workshop with paper being placed on the ground so we would not leave any traces. 15 bottles of spray were used until the last drop. Unfortunately, 2 of the punching bags got harmed and lost their air\life whereas another two did not make it through the transportation process.

Phase 3

The room had to become visitor-friendly. Hence, we placed a table with a Mac next to the entrance that would show a little presentation of our concept. The other sections with our personal belongings were covered with two other black curtains and we had a nice entrance for ourselves to get to the "backstage" and control everything from there.

Phase 4

Spreading posters all over the C building to get people's attention to the installation in the 3rd floor.


Observation

After inviting lots of people to our installation, we observed how there were some similarities and differences according to gender, age and profession.

Female students were rather intimidated when they entered the space and were walking around carefully, afraid of "breaking something". Male students would rather start punching the bags right away and move all over the space in a confident way until the moment when they felt that they triggered something.

Security men and workers would stand there just watching the projections or the TV screen without any further interest in exploring the environment. From time to time they would punch the bags but in a very distant way.

Tutors rather explored the environment and examined how their actions would affect it. One of them would have liked to have the webcams and flashlights hidden though in order to see how people would act if they had no reference point.

What most of the visitors had in common though, was an insecure, confused look once they felt that they were triggering something. This usually lead to either standing still to confirm that notion or moving around to explore it even further. The 3D sound also contributed to people's distraction from different angles which again symbolized the different opinions we kept hearing during the revolution.

Surprisingly, people added interactivity aspects to objects which had none. For instance, some thought they affected the change of videos on both TV or projections through their movement. Others thought they bottles would somehow react to them as well. The punching bags were also considered part of the triggering inputs and people expected some feedback which they sometimes got but it was not dependent on them punching the bags. All these different analysis aspects showed how personal interpretations can become whenever something is placed in an environment. The urge to relate things to one another often lead to the illusion of believing that things were connected, although they were not.

The punching bags were a subject of debate. While some people dealt with them in a very playful way which lead to the atmosphere losing its seriousness, others perceived them as interesting objects that contributed to the mysteriousness of the whole setup. Some people even suggested a bigger amount of these objects to intensify the struggle.

Bernd Dudzik suggested including the projections in the interactivity part. For instance, they could go dull or darker once the sounds of the opposite side were triggered to grab more attention to the other side.

Another objection was directed at the 3D sound as it caused more distraction and therefore could have been left out. Accordingly we switched them off and people figured out the interaction much faster, which again resulted in less confusion. This is where we are still discussing whether it would have been better for people to be confronted with less confusion or whether it is the overlapping of triggered and non-triggered sounds that expressed the true conflict.

Hence, we might alternate between the exhibited objects and explore even further how people would interpret their presence.


Discussion

Obstalces

Like in any other project, we had to deal with some obstacles during the implementation of our concept.

First of all, time estimation. At the beginning of every day, we made a schedule, estimating how much time each point would take. Unfortunately, almost everything took much longer than expected; starting from the space setup which was supposed to take 2 hours max to the punching-bags-pumping and -spraying that took more than 4 hours due to the transportation difficulties.

Second, technical surprises. Everyday we were confronted with technical equipments that would not work all of a sudden. Whether it is the projector, the TV or the webcams they all just had to stop working normally from time to time which caused unnecessary tension and time loss. The biggest panic factor was usually caused by the MAX patches, as they would just stop working and we would not know whether it is us, them or nothing and they are just playing tricks on us. These difficulties are explained in detail in the Interactivity section.

Third, transportation and location. As our room is in the 3rd floor next to the upper management we had to carry all the things from the second floor to the third which was something very wearisome as we had a TV, a big projector and 15 punching bags and an everyday-bag full of heavy things to carry all the way up.

Actor-Network Theory

After dealing with the Actor-network theory for a whole semester in two different courses (Media Installation and Communication Theory), we gained more insight into this theory through this project.

During the setup of the installation, we already realized how the objects which we used triggered different ideas of use in us and were therefore communicators of unusual messages, out of their usual context. Of course, this was entirely dependent on us as "the receiver creates the meaning". We would also get mad at the objects/technical equipment when something would not go according to plan and have a different channel of communication with them.

After the realization of the project, we left the fixer bottles on the some parts of the shelves as we felt that it added something to it. We were also aware that the way we placed each component of the setting would have a great impact on the visitor. This was then assured during the feedback sessions as people said things like:

"The punching bags reminded us of the police force and triggered us to punch them."

"The lights caught a lot of attention as it was dark and one would block them to see what happens afterwards."

"The remote control on the TV table would make you want to switch the channels."

"The punching bags seemed playful and made me want to see what would happen if I hit them."

"I was expecting something to happen with the bottles."

All these triggered imaginations and actions of how things would react are due to the narrative elements of the objects we placed. Each object told different stories according to the person viewing it and this again created a whole network of actants playing different roles according to the perception of the visitor.

Reflection

Now as we look back at the procedure and implementation phase, we can say that all the struggles and discussions were definitely worth it. One can say that we rather learnt to accept each other's differences and ways of dealing with stress than asking each other to change which was probably the main factor why we finished this project on time.

Besides, not having a rigid work frame, gave us more space to handle obstacles in a creative way and come up with solutions we probably would not have thought of if we were not under such time pressure.

Last but not least, it was amazing how each one contributed through his different/individual ideas to the project and made the outcome greater than we would have expected.

Nevertheless, we will probably try to enhance this project by adding motion detectors and more samples for the triggered sound files in order to analyze how different the results would be from our current ones.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it was a successful project in which we all improved our teamwork and working-under-stress-and-time-pressure skills. Creativity was triggered in each one of us and brought to a new level due to the obstacles that we had to face and solve with what was available. We also gained deeper insight into the Actor-network theory and the great impact of sound, especially 3D sound.

Hereby, we would also like to thank Daniel Fetzner and Julien Schmid for their supervision, Bernd Dudzik for all the feedback and MAX justifications and Dr. Ahmed Wahby and Suzy Joseph for their fruitful feedback when we were still developing the concept.