TRIGGER WARNING: Flashing lights, loud uncomfortable sounds, topics of torture.

For the outcome, I created a one minute walkthrough of the design including animating the lighting and adding the sound design.

I wanted to best capture the audience experience. My intended audience member is of a younger generation who does not know about Abu Ghraib so that the experience is educational and reflective, hence it being a one-on-one experience. I feel like the narratives of the military personel involved saturates the media, but what we are truly missing is an understanding of the victims. Al-Qaisi’s story was so important to me as he is one of the only named & outspoken victims. If I were to ever realise this installation, a point of research would be to interview him directly. 

In reflection, I believe that the project had too short of a timeframe to do the necessary volume of research. I am fully aware that I have barely skimmed the surface of Abu Ghraib’s history. I would have liked to do more research on PTSD and how victimes remember their trauma, since the basis of my design was an interview conducted 10 years after Al-Qaisi’s lived experience. Secondly, I also know that I run the risk of making this lived experience a spectacle and that is a fine line that I am learning to navigate through this project. I tried to do this by constantly having discussions with Laura and the other students for regular feedback. Ethical & moral concerns were at the heart of this project, so I have learned to be more conscience of those in any future work. 

To elaborate, the ethical and moral concerns also covered “who’s voice should be making work about this?”. As an Arab who grew up in the Middle East, I felt that I was an appropriate voice to be making the work which is why I chose to focus so heavily on the photographs rather than be loosely inspired by them. I felt the expectation that I had to go very strongly political, but quickly realised that was not the right reason to go political just because someone else wanted you to. The work is naturally going to have political undertones, but I purposefully kept it subtle. I did not want my political opinion to drive the work because I chose to use someone else’s lived experience. 

Lastly, my goal was to understand how the designer could be the lead artist on a performance project. I think I used my own skillset to navigate this by sticking with spatial design. I do wish I challenged myself to work more with performers and text like in The Collective, but perhaps that was not appropriate for this subject matter. I am also glad I challenged myself to do something entirely design-led and to explore sound & lighting which are new avenues for me. 

© Jida Akil 2024