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|"Of Shifting Shadows" is an interactive hypermedia narrative primarily in English. The narrative is constructed in 48 segments, layered with video (19 mins), audio (45 mins), animated text (46 segs) and graphics (205 plates), and original and reconstructed archival material (all in public domain) in English and Farsi. It combines storytelling, documentary narration, visual arts, performance and visual poetry in a converged environment. The overall viewing time is between 1.5 to 2.5 hours. The viewer interacts with the piece through the mouse. The interactive experience has a haptic character as the interface diminishes the dominance of technology to prioritize content.
An exploration in the non-linear movement of memory, "Of Shifting Shadows" speaks to the fragmentary effects of traumatic social events on individual subjectivities and the agency of the individuals in recreating their lives. The work takes its impetus from the 1979 Iranian Revolution, revisited after 20 years through a personal journey in memory and history. Four fictional women - Bita, Mina, Goli and the Author, deliver the narrative ‚ which unfolds in parallel visual, spoken and written texts. They 'speak' of their experiences of the Revolution and their consequent life in exile. At one level, the work revisits the 1979 Revolution - one of the most significant popular uprisings in the last quarter of the twentieth century with drastic effects on the international politics and dynamics of power - to selectively chronicle and reflect on the expressions of a politicized public. At another level, it attempts to establish a public voice for the marginalized secular forces seeking freedom, specifically for women, who were the first and primary target of post-revolutionary oppression and whose voices were muted in the narration of history and national identity. Although the characters narrate the forgotten or forbidden tales of the revolt, they do not suffice with the past for their vision inevitably passes through their exiled present. Juxtaposing the memory of the past/there with the experience of the present/here, they weave a multi-directional critical text that allows the complexity and shifting meanings of exilic existence to emerge and recreates personal stories rarely heard by the Western audiences, all the while staying clear from the superficial sensationalism that subverts many such public acts. The interactive strategy places the viewer in the position of witness and accomplice to move the work beyond abstract, disembodied and propagandistic pondering and, thus, invoke intimate experience and a sense of responsibility mediated by artistic expression.
The CD-R's beta version was exhibited at Beyond Boundaries at Worth Ryder Gallery (Berkeley, June 2000). Since its independent public launch at InterAccess (Toronto, Oct 2000), it has been exhibited at Maid in Cyberspace Festival (Montreal, Feb 2001) and Trans/Planting at A Space Gallery (Toronto, Jan-Feb 2001). It was a highlight of the N-Space Art Exhibition at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles (Aug 2001), and was subsequently included in their travelling exhibit with venues all around the world including China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, Denmark, Mexico, Japan, etc. (2002-3). "Of Shifting Shadows" received the top award in the independent disk-based category from the 2001 Baddeck International New Media Festival.
Although this work was conceived and produced entirely as an art project, like many artistic projects it has entered educational milieus, specifically within the contexts of New Media Studies, Women's Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies.
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