by Roel Wouters, Luna Maurer & Jonathan Puckey

Talking about, and expressing opinions on the Middle East is a difficult and touchy subject. There is the potential for many misunderstandings. People can get hurt. In the recent elections in the Netherlands the issue of freedom of speech was reconsidered. Is one allowed to say what one wishes, even if it might be labeled discriminatory by others? People feel uncomfortable, and are perhaps even afraid to debate these political, social and cultural issues. Politicians, maybe everyone, must take special care as everything they say is liable to be weighed by others on a very sensitive scale.

The proposal that most of the texts here would be in the form of interviews suggested that they are one of the most direct, straight forward forms of dialogue. As a visual approach to the catalogue and website, the hope is to combine the complexity of communication with a visualisation of dialogue.

The design is based on analyses of all the conversations with the artists. However the parameters for the graphics have been based not on WHAT is said, but on HOW things are said, by focusing on the uses of language, punctuation, grammar and other characteristics of communication. In this way communication is visualised without commenting on its contents.

On the one hand the attempt is to be as objective as possible by applying the graphical treatments using the same rules, on the other hand who invented those rules?

By giving the interviews a major presence, the focus is on dialogue. The choice was to represent dialogue in a graphic form as a speech bubble. Speech bubbles date back to the 13th century when they were used to depict speech in art using scrolls, flags or sheets of paper. They could be seen as an icon for dialogue across all cultures.

The physical parameters of the text on the page influences different sorts of modifications to the speech bubble's characteristics: size, shape, fill, outline… One has been made for each interview. The large number of interviews and the precision required, seemed to demand a computer-generated approach. After generating the basic lay-outs, they are redrawn by hand to rectify specific modifications.

One does not only have the text to read but it is also possible to further examine moods, feelings and reactions in a new way.

January 2007