ARTIST’S PROJECT: THE GEDDES INTERNATIONAL

by Peter Macapia* 

This project began with an invitation from the Storefront for Art and Architecture to reimagine Norman Bel Geddes’s design for a floating airport at the southern tip of Manhattan, published in his 1932 book Horizons. At the time, I was working on an exhibition in Croatia, where I met designer Iva Babaja. She told me about a screenplay that had been partially recovered after it was found in a box along with a copy of Horizons and a series of 35 folders containing notes and some clippings titled The International in a dumpster near the Croatian film production company Adria Film. The screenplay, probably written in the 1960s, is incomplete and water-damaged to the extent that it is mostly illegible. Of 80 manuscript pages, only 5 remain fully intact along with a few handwritten notes.

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Set in an airport in 2032, the plot centers on unidentifiable travellers trying to enter the United States. They are suspended at customs, where a computer system designed to identify ethnic origins based on language patterns analyzes their speech. The manuscript is written in Croatian. All dialogue is marked indicating it is to be spoken in one of six languages—Arabic, Italian, German, French, Croatian, or English—and is to be subtitled in another. Using manuscript fragments and found images, I have attempted to recreate the story. For this project, Iva Babaja translated all Croatian text into English. All other translations were performed by Google Translate.

Cover page: zaustavljena na carini (detained at airport)—“Geddes International”

Scene 1: Nada: nepoznat (unfamiliar)… mnogo dijelova (of many parts)… Sie müssen nur daran erinnern, diese Kombinationvon dem, was ist, und dem, was nicht. Nada carrying an unfamiliar object of many parts. Speaks to Maja. You must only remember this combination… that which is and that which isn’t.

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Unnumbered scene: Customs officers speaking about speaking and listening to speaking (govorio govoreći o tome). The scene describes a wall of phones and a man called Sasha.

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Scene 9: View of the city, airplane departing, customs officer approaches the camera. Pogled na grad, zrakoplov polijeće, carinski službenik se približava kameri. Two subtitles: Arabic and English. 

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Scene 18: A vast storage room of data and vowels (podaci o samoglasnicima). The sounds are reconstructed into words: all the travelling, all the accents . . .  ai̯ . . . ae̯ . . . au̯ɾo . . . ao̯ . . .  ai ae auro ao (probably but gold cloud), iə̯ . . . uə̯ . . . yə̯ . . . ei̯ . . . øi̯ . . . Lieb guet müed Bein Böim (Dear good tired leg trees). . . au̯ . . . aːu̯ . . . æu̯ . . . æːu̯ . . . ʊu̯  . . . . Stau Staau Wäut wääut schúud (Stable steel world elects guilty).

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Scene 19: Man listening to sounds in a darkened room.

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*Peter Macapia is an artist, architect, professor, and Director of labDORA (Design Office for Research and Architecture). He studied at RISD and Harvard and earned a PhD from Columbia’s Department of Art History.