“Higher Ground: A ParaNarraStallation,” explores Buffalo, New York, through different lenses and from new heights. Conceived as a scavenger hunt and filmed like a first-person video game, Higher Ground Walkthrough goes beyond (para-) the traditional stasis of site-specific installation, while still exploring seven specific sites throughout Erie County.
The story (narra-) begins with a mysterious package delivered to a journalist’s door. In it, we discover a flash drive with clues leading us to a second location. What starts as a potential meeting with the lawyer trying to take down an environmentally-destructive chemical company becomes a chase through time to try to prevent the enactment of a human sacrifice by a mystical terrorist group, EcAcErCo, the Eco-Accelerationists of Erie County.
EcAcErCo’s goal is to speed up impending environmental catastrophe in order to fulfill the promise of Erie County’s future as a Climate Refuge City (that is, literal and metaphorical higher ground), clinching a desperately-needed boost in population and, even better, government funding.
Overall, “Higher Ground Walkthrough” is a chance to explore this region’s history of economic boom and bust, its reputation as a locale for both alternative spiritual exploration and stubborn local pride, its geological landmarks and environmental disasters, and, ultimately, its geographical neutrality, with little opportunity for relief or perspective. (Much time was spent studying topographical maps of Erie County, looking for the highest point.)
Artistically, this project is an exploration of multimodal media — in conversation with Situationist movements like derives & board games, participatory art as critiqued by Claire Bishop (Artificial Hells), narrative film, first-person shooters, and media archaeological studies of the effects of digital and analog products on our perception of time.