Steve Rowell



Parallelograms is an experimental documentary that maps a landscape of dark money in Washington, D.C.. As shadow institutions come into focus, we glimpse a parallel world.

Political Action Committees, think tanks, trade associations, lobbying agencies, and advocacy groups are institutions where experts gather to discuss, map, and strategize, creating political and economic environments that help secure their visions of the future. This project is concerned with the multiverse of these near futures -- some more probable than others -- as well as with the present. Parallelograms is about where vectors of geography, landscape, politics, economy, and temporality intersect and how they are manifested. It also serves as a linear “cognitive mapping” experiment in which the viewer experiences a compressed, systematic tour of a dense and complex political terrain. This is a site-specific film, in that each building facade is the actual location of the institution represented. Most of these institutions have publicly available addresses, a few required a measure of sleuthing to reveal.

Visually, the film is composed of telescopic, oblique views of windows. Reflections in these widows, often mirrored, reveal an inverse “known world,” underscoring complications of what is perceived and what is real. In this sense, material elements of architecture frame as well as distort the landscape. Sonically, the film uses a unique device to represent locations pictured: each site is presented to the viewer by way of an outgoing phone message, recorded via telephone, after business hours, from the represented institution. These disembodied monologues, uncannily recontextualized, become dialogues between architecture and viewer, implying layers of perceived meaning open to speculation.


Abstraction coexists with the real as a reflection of the current state of political discourse in America today. Corrupted power and distorted influence affects us all by exacerbating economic disparity, resource depletion, environmental degradation, and civil rights abuses. The intent of Parallelograms is not simply to present documentation from an exhaustive list, or to dictate any particular activist agenda, but rather, to extrapolate from the political landscape in a way that compels discussion about campaign finance reform, dark money, and climate change denial.

Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts – Chicago

Provisions Research Center for Arts & Social Change – Washington, D.C.
Immaterial Incorporated – New York

Popol Vuh, "Kha-White Structures I", In den Gärten Pharaos, 1971/2004.
Used with permission from the estate of Florian Fricke.

Parallelograms was premiered (World, European, German) on February 03, 2016 at transmediale 2016 in Berlin as an installation: video loop of the film (32 minutes) with a synchonized map video. A pamphlet was also given out which included a text written by Brian Holmes. Article about the talk on opening night.
A preview, in the form of a series of photo-grids, was published in the Summer 2014 issue of Cabinet Magazine.

Parallelograms Interactive Map
featuring sites in the film as well as a selection of additional sites: