Orient(n)ations is Fareed Armaly’s first major project in the US in over a decade. Like previous projects, this installation situates architecture and media as cardinal points on the mental and social maps that inform identity. The elements that Armaly has amassed in the gallery work together to create an abstract compass. The north-south axis is formed by the architecture of the space, which has been activated through layers of paint matching the colors of the building’s exterior. On polar ends of the east-west axis are two monitors, each playing a film from the 1950s—one employing radio as a subversive tool, the other as an arm of the establishment.
Armaly turns to radio, a format that reached heights in the 1950s and has recently experienced a rebirth due to wireless technologies and Internet broadcasting, rather than working with images—the dominant vehicle of contemporary media. In the center of the gallery, Armaly inscribed the floor with radio call numbers and arranged a group of low modern chairs in a random pattern that implies spontaneity and movement. Each seat is equipped with wireless headphones tuned to a different radio program produced by Armaly and collaborators. These five programs establish different connections between the two films and represent the fluidity of narratives that might emerge from any given set of circumstances.
In its map-like construction, Orient(n)ations literalizes theories of the social imaginary. Its various components combine to create a spatial narrative formed by intersections of media and architecture—a narrative that maps who we are and how we exist in relationship to physical, social, and psychological spheres.