Found Images and Networked Americas in the Builders Association’s Alladeen
This essay analyzes and documents Alladeen, staged during 2002–05 by the Builders Association in collaboration with motiroti. In this visually stunning multimedia performance, three kinds of found imagery materialize the linked issues of mobility and longing dominant in contemporary networked culture. First, elements of The Arabian Nights and the famous story, “Aladdin,” traverse time, place, and media. In addition, the names, story lines, and images of characters and performers from television’s Friends become the foundation of avatars for Bangalore call-center workers seeking to pass as American on the telephone, offering them the possibility of self-definition and material advancement, while creating cultural traps that prove difficult to escape. Finally, documentary interview footage chronicles the wishes and experiences of Bangalore operators in a way so powerful that it dominates other elements on the poly-focal stage. The found objects allow the Builders to test perceived distinctions between the real and the virtual and between America, the geographical place, and the ever-evolving America in the global imagining.