Fantastic Futures

Fantastic Futures is a platform for exchange between nations in conflict through the sharing and mixing of user-recorded sounds.
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Project Location

New York/Iraq New York United States of America
Artists Involved

Or Zubalsky, Andrew Persoff, Ali Salim Abood
Huong Ngo
Project Description

The Future is Fantastic, If You Want It To Be:

Fantastic Futures is collaborative group of about 49 students from Iraq and the United States. It is also an online platform that we have been developing since November 2010 that allows for the live mixing and sharing of recorded sounds and stories across cultures. As a social medium, it is aimed towards connecting citizens from nations in conflict in an open dialogue based around the sharing of field recordings, songs, and interviews. Our goal is collapse the barriers of physical space that contribute to the misunderstandings between cultures and to emphasize the subversive value of sharing experiences across political borders.

Meet the members of Fantastic Futures here:

The Platform:

The online platform consists of a collection of uploaded, tagged sounds that can be dragged and dropped into a timeline and played as a loop with sounds overlaid on top of one another. Text that accompanies each sound in the time is also aggregated to form a non-linear narrative. Sound collages can be saved, shared, and commented on, allowing for further dialogue and generation of content. 

A prototype of the interface can be viewed here:

The History of Fantastic Futures:

The project began through a recent collaboration among a core group of about 20 students and professors, mostly at the University of Baghdad, Parsons The New School for Design, and Pratt Institute through a series of conversations and creative acts about education and political change under the title "Crosswire Collective" and the leadership of artist Melanie Crean. After the project concluded, many of the student leaders and professors decided to continue the conversation through a new project that would allow for an open sharing of culture through the exchange of media. Fantastic Futures is that project.

Our process:

We began with informal chats online about how the group might continue to collaborate and create a tool in which participants could easily upload and blend sound files together, thus metaphorically collapsing the insurmountable geographic distance among the members of the group. Collectively, we decided to gather a variety of sound recordings from environmental sounds, interviews, to even song covers, and create a space in which those sounds could be combined into new collages for others to experience. Additionally, we are interested in creating a collage of text from the stories that accompany each sound and examining how recordings from similar settings might bear resemblances or differences from each other.

The Future:

Beginning in January, our team began designing and developing the project and hope to begin using it in April in its first beta testing phase with a larger group of about 50 participants from both Iraq and the United States. Once we determine how participants are most interested in using it, we would like refine the site and open it up for anyone to use. Additionally, we would like to add features to the site to allow for it to be an ongoing platform for social exchange and dialogue. To do this, we would like to be able to budget and plan for the next couple of years for hosting, development, so that the project can have lasting, long-term affects.
Project Timeline and Budget

March-May, 2011: Begin beta testing of phase 1 of project.
May-August, 2011: Second round of development.
September, 2011: Release to general public.

Hosting and DNS: $100/year x 2 years = $200
Developing: $ 3000 ($1000 in kind donation of labor/consultation)
Design: $3000 ($1000 in kind donation of labor/consultation)
Promotion: $200

Grand Total Cost: $4400
About the Artist(s) Involved

Huong Ngo was born in Hong Kong, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is an artist and an educator. Her work
explores how art can offer proposals for more empathetic relationships with the world. She teaches at Parsons The New School for Design, Pratt Institute, and the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Recent and upcoming activities include exhibitions at The Kitchen, EFA Project Space, Hunter College, and a performance at The Whitney Museum of American Art for Trade School.

Or Zubalsky was born in Israel and remembers the day that he dressed up in a superhero costume, saved a pigeon's life, and started playing drums. He was 8 years old then, and been reliving that day ever since, but has added singing, programming, and chocolate-eating to his repertoire of activities. He attends Parsons The New School for Design, has played for many famous Israeli rock bands, and still knows how to fly.

Andrew Persoff was born and raised in Miami, FL and now lives in New York. He considers design—as opposed to decoration—a fundamental tool. Currently working as a freelancer and studying at Parsons The New School for Design, he eventually plans to work in a transdisciplinary field with an emphasis on the communicative capacity of design.

Ali Salim Abood is currently a 5th medical student at the University of Baghdad. He is a recent participant in MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) at the University of Delaware, which includes intense classes in leadership, political science, and philosophy. He is the organizer for many projects aimed towards greater dialogue and cultural awareness among citizens of the United States and Iraq including the Amity Alliance Project and Our Songs for Peace. He enjoys playing guitar, taking photographs, and reading.
Artist(s) Work Samples

As a Collaborative Group:
Shape of Change:
And Longing is No Longer Sleeps:
. . .

Huong Ngo
Portfolio Site:
. . .

Or Zubalsky
We Are All the Time:
Color Wheel:
Fibonacci Sound Sequence:
. . .

Andrew Persoff
Design Portfolio:
Map for Musement:
. . .

Ali Salim Abood
Amity Alliance Project
Our Sounds for Peace
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