Paradigm Shift (1992)
Paradigm Shift was commissioned by the Whitney Museum and the Bohen Foundation for the broadcast series TRANS-VOICES. The challenge was to create a sixty second piece for broadcast in the US, France, and other countries (non-English speaking). Paradigm Shift was composed as an image/sound narrative, without verbal language, designed to be interpretable across language borders.
In 1991, I developed a thesis, “The First World Order”, that proposed a matrix of knowledge systems exists in the world, among disparate and dislocated peoples, that evolved from migrations out of the Nile Valley civilization, and that evidence of its persistence can be found in the symbolic language systems, arts, cultures, and life-ways of peoples around the planet today. Investigating my thesis became a four-year odyssey, spanning the planet, and involving the collaboration of several remarkable scholars and artists on four continents.
In 1992, I journeyed with two colleagues to the remote Garifuna village of Hopkins, on the coast Belize, Central America. One afternoon we sat under a palm, fifty meters from the sea, as a Garifuna woman washed clothes in a tub, and hung them to dry on a rope between palms. As we chatted, I set up a video playback with a battery-powered 9” monitor and portapak, and screened for her and her husband my sixty second animation, Paradigm Shift. . I screened it twice (it’s short). I asked the woman and man to tell me the story they’d just seen/heard.
They immediately told to me the story I had intended to convey, and they spoke from a point of view, and with a language that completely surprised me. They found poetry, and a vision of redemption, in the piece. My colleagues and I were enthralled.
As they spoke, I was in church, I was confirmed. I had composed a media art piece that conveyed a subtle and nuanced narrative to an audience for whom English is a second or third language. I had, on that quiet afternoon, received volumes of insight and inspiration.
TRAJECTORY: Precursors to this piece are the three-channel analog video installations Footprints, Dreamkeeper, and Mask, and the single-channel videos Wassa and Jembe.
Commissioned by The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Bohen Foundation, and broadcast on Public Television stations in the USA, France, and other countries in the series TRANS-VOICES
Produced at the Institute for Studies in the Arts, College of Fine Arts, Arizona State University, Richard L. Loveless, Director