“In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of others. In the almost unfathomable Ts’ui Pen, he chooses - simultaneously - all of them.”
Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s work Garden of Forking Paths, we created a small decision tree. The hero of the story is virtually faceless by design - his plight can be echoed by any potential viewer. Each stage of the decision tree represents one of three decisions that have to be made, resulting in one of eight endings. Each stage increases in abstraction from the previous.
At the first stage, our hero is forced to choose between two paths of study. On the phone with an advisor, a family member, a friend, or some other figure, the hero makes the final decision himself - to study art, or to study math? This distinction is, by virtue of its being made first, the most influential in determining the ending.
At the second stage, the hero faces down a bad assignment. Whether in art or in math, the hero is frustrated, and finds continuing difficult. At this time, he receives a call - but the ID is different. Where the hero pursued his parents’ wishes, the ID is of Home. Where their wishes are defied, the ID is of Parents. This subtle shift represents the divide created by choices made at the previous stage. At this stage, however, the choice is between reconciliation and division, between affirmation and despair.
At the final stage, our hero has landed a job. Based on the previous decisions, our hero is either successfully giving a talk or unveiling artwork, or he is working a desk job or customer service. Nevertheless, our hero has to make a decision. But this decision is not one that can be seen, and perhaps the decision cannot be fully realized. This is the decision to be happy, accept what life has dealt, and embrace the situation or to be defeated, cursing life, and seeing no progress. These endings manifest themselves in every situation, and indeed, the decision to pursue happiness is one that we struggle with everyday, even outside these job situations. Small wonder then, that even this unconscious act creates as many timestreams as other decisions.
The small changes that are present in each stage are carefully documented and are intended as results of the previous actions. By viewing all of them simultaneously, the viewer is able to get a grasp of how many different ways a life can turn out. By focusing on one individually, the viewer can follow a story and trace back the causes and effects in a way that only hindsight can.
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