Build it Better - 2010

Build it Better was an installation designed to tackle the difficult task of illustrating the pitfalls of armchair foreign policy. Through a gaming interface users on one side of a partition would try to tackle the task of building a simple structure on the other side of the partition by manipulating a robotic arm. The entire experience was funneled through a television screen with a ticker of news stories detailing the many failed attempts of armchair foreign policy.

Screen capture from MSNBC summarizing how misdirected funds have done damage

The piece was inspired by both the war in Iraq and the reconstruction efforts in Haiti. In both cases, the desires of altruistic individuals to rebuild a nation ended up depriving many indigenous people of jobs and livelihood while allowing profiteers and middle men to line their pockets. In Haiti, the subsidized food and medical aid devastated the agricultural and healthcare industries before and after the earthquake. In Iraq, billions of dollars were spent to rebuild infrastructure, but this was done by hiring American contractors to do the job at incredibly inflated prices at the of Iraqi jobs. In both cases, the spiraling unemployment further destabilized the region, while the massive expenditures siphoned billions into the pockets of a few.