MFA Thesis – Excerpt 26

Cooperation, Equality, and Visual Culture

From the MFA thesis:

“Alatian” society takes inspiration from Native American tribes and nations—like the Huadenosaunee (or Iroquois) Confederacy 1— the oldest democracy on the American continent. It also considers African and Asian tribes, and mixes the positive characteristics of each with political idealism. Had these cultures been truly uncivilized or primitive they would not have been able to achieve the sophistication and civil structure they developed over their existence. Basing Traces on these cultures is a way to honor their contribution to humanity and to keep their relevance to human history alive. Using their inspiration Traces combines their traditions and cultural heritages in “Alatians,” who have an inclusive socialist-communist society in its purest form, not like anything that exists in real life.

Where does that put Traces?

The digital 3D animated short film Traces attempts to demonstrate that humanity would benefit if the push for profit and market dominance were abolished and instead resources were pooled to solve common problems in an environment of mutual cooperation and support. This type of cooperation is very different from what Simone De Beauvoir describes in The Ethics of Ambiguity. De Beauvoir observes, “They [humans] know themselves to be the supreme end to which all action should be subordinated, but the exigencies of action force them to treat one another as instruments or obstacles, as means.2” The negative effects of creating a market for a product, like an iPhone, pits both developers against developers and customers against customers in fictitious wars of brand dominance.

This narrative creates an environment where human beings, as De Beauvoir says, treat each other as obstacles or adversaries instead of partners. In the case of “Alatia,” the population does not exploit labor for profit and instead takes advantage of members’ capacities by supporting the right to access technology and contribute to the common good. A measure of equality amongst the citizens is assured because “Alatia’s” technologies are cooperatively developed.

1914 - Buffalo New York, Panoramic View of Iroquois. CREDIT: "Iroquois Indians." c1914. William Alexander Drennan, copyright claimant, 1914. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991, Library of Congress.
1914 – Buffalo New York, Panoramic View of Iroquois. CREDIT: “Iroquois Indians.” c1914. William Alexander Drennan, copyright claimant, 1914. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991, Library of Congress. More info

Why make a film on these subjects?

It is hard to invent a society that is close to utopian (the fantasy part). It needs to fail (the believable part?) because of its human element limitations. But it helps to see what real societies have accomplished over the centuries. Our native brothers and sisters have much to teach us. I do not suffer from delusions of “belonging” to a native group myself. I’m making this project because I think and feel that I have ancestry of native origin. We need to fix this society where people are afterthoughts. So I set out to create this work many years ago.

During my MFA thesis studies I learned about civilizations that are really commendable. I mentioned above the Haudenosaunee as the first democracy of the American continent. Some historians say that USA was born from the contact of the colonist with the Haudenosaunee democratic structure. How about that! Those “savages” like the main stream history books like to call them in the past (and some in the present, unfortunately) actually taught a thing or two to the colonist! The cooperation that the tribes had among themselves inspired the likes of Benjamin to base the USA government on. I am just repeating the opinion of historians, but I believe it to be truth.


  1. Neta C. Crawford, “A Security Regime Among Democracies: Cooperation Among Iroquois Nations,” International Organization 48, no. 3 (1994) : 381.
  2. Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity, (New York : Citadel Press, 1948) : 95.