A format-driven manifesto for fringe beliefs
Most people think that conspiracy theorists are wackos on the fringe of society, but over 1/3 of Americans consistently endorse at least one conspiracy theory. Despite most of these theories being silly and easy to dismiss, they have a very real impact on our politics, media, and culture.
In this project, I delved into two of the strangest conspiracy theories and explored them from the point of view of the people who believe them. The two theories are: the Beatles are clones, and the Earth is flat. Each theory has its own interactive book, and both books are housed in a box with a pull-tab lid. When you pull the tab, the name and logo “Redacted” is revealed. Throughout this project, I sought to focus on storytelling and to transform the viewer into an active investigator—much like the people who have dedicated huge amounts of time to investigating these theories. The unique physical form of this project emphasizes the themes of transformation, evolution, and pushing through multiple layers of information to reveal material that was initially hidden.
Peeling back layers to reveal truth
The box itself is folded into an iron cross with four overlapping flaps. In order to uncover the books within, the viewer must peel back all four flaps, each with a sentence on it. The entire quotation reads: “All truth passes through three stages. First it’s ridiculed. Second it’s violently opposed. Third, it’s accepted as being self-evident.”
The exteriors of the books are white and subtle (in contrast with the colorful interiors) to represent the way most people don’t think twice about commonly held beliefs. Very few think to challenge the narrative that the Beatles are exactly as they appear or that the Earth is round, but those who do look deeper discover a more vibrant, interesting, and complete truth.
The Beatles Are Clones
The first book, The Beatles Are Clones, argues that Paul, John, George, and Ringo don’t exist as individual men—instead, each man is one of hundreds of clones.
Much of the visual language for The Beatles Are Clones was inspired by pop art and psychedelic imagery. Not only is that style appropriate to the time period of the Beatles’ popularity, but pop art also emphasizes the ideas of image, identity, multiples, and consumerism—all crucial elements of this conspiracy theory.
The design for the endpages of the book mimics a kaleidoscope to further reference the themes of identity, image, and multiples.
For the informational spreads, I appropriated the famous Abbey Road photograph and abstracted handwritten annotations to allude to the hands-on, active nature of these conspiracy theorists.
Towards the center of the book, each Beatle gets a spread dedicated to carefully analyzing his facial features, since the argument of those who believe the Beatles are clones is that their faces change so much over just a few years.
The left page of each spread consists of close-ups of the Beatles. At first the photos look like there’s been a glitch, but when the viewer slides the transparency over the page, the photos suddenly animate.
Build your own Beatle
The faces of each Beatle, taken from photographs throughout the 1960s, have been broken up into strips and attached to the right page of each spread. When the viewer interacts with these flaps, it becomes evident that the various parts of the photos do not combine to make a natural-looking face.
The Round Earth Conspiracy
The second book is dedicated to the theory that we’ve all been lied to and the Earth is actually a flat disc.
The cover features a photograph of a paper circle being pushed forward from the rest of the sheet—an image that plays with our perception of flatness and dimension.
The Illuminated Resistance
Flat-Earthers echo the ideas of the Middle Ages—the last era when many believed the Earth was flat. Additionally, Flat-Earthers refer to themselves as “the illuminated resistance,” as they see themselves as the few people who know the truth and that it is their duty to spread this knowledge to the rest of the world.
Because of these beliefs, the visual language of this book is inspired by incunabula: 16th-century books created in the very early days of printing. Printers would leave blank spaces in the documents for individual people to fill in with illuminated letters and marginalia. The “do-it-yourself” aspect of these documents, as well as them being contemporaneous to the beliefs of Flat-Earthers, makes incunabula a natural fit for representing this conspiracy theory.
Truth in flatness
The main impact of this book is in the physical format itself: the nature of the construction and binding illustrates the beliefs of Flat-Earthers as much as the content. While the piece can be paged through as a traditional book, the text and graphics appear disjointed and awkward. It’s not until the viewer pulls the book flat that the simple, powerful message is revealed. Like the Earth itself, this book makes the most sense not when viewed as a three-dimensional object, but as a two-dimensional one.