No Direction Home is an existentialist travelogue performance art piece whose goofy premise could only work within the bizarre social context of the internet. A lot of people I know wanted me to give updates about what I was doing in Thailand and elsewhere, an impossible request, and NDH is a fulfillment of that request.
I got the idea after reading something David Byrne, former frontman of The Talking Heads wrote on his blog about Jay-Z’s digital media book. In the book, Jay-Z appears on video and talks about his work. Byrne commented that it was nice to see Jay-Z come out from behind a persona. Very interesting, the idea that Jay-Z appearing in a video in the context of selling a book about his music is not a persona seemed… questionable. Moreover, the notion that Byrne himself, a working artist who uses his web blog as part of his artistic endeavors, was not behind a persona as he wrote his entry also seemed suspect.
The opening page at 846Route14 is supposed to give the feel of flipping through channels, the first image is a cable tv menu with the name of the program. “Whats on the news today?” -click. As you scroll down, you see the title image, as well as a movie looking review and synopsis. From there it becomes a choose your own multimedia ad venture story. This is a choose your own social media adventure travelogue; you can get the art, fiction, movie, pictures, in whatever dose you want.
If you click ‘Replay Movie’, meaning replay the story, it does not refresh the page but takes you to the second scene in the movie, you are in the actual movie and in control of your experience. (What do you think of the art and sequential narrative?)
There are choose your own adventure style instructions at Shotwell (If you are watching no direction home, do this…). As you click next through the images by clicking next, you are seeing a low frame rate narrative movie. It is a silent movie with a very low frame count and you have to turn the pictures, but its a movie if you can accept the premise that you are seeing a visual narrative as portrayed by actors (including myself.)
My contention is that we are never being real or authentic, we are all actors playing to scripts in our heads. We are never out from behind a persona, because that is all there is, even in our most personal dialogue. To exist within a narrative is to adopt a persona. A persona is neither a good nor bad thing, it is a thing.
My actual experience as a person is represented in the artifacts left behind by my various lived in personas, writer, artist, photographer, friend, husband, etc. It was up to me, the person, to stitch them together into a coherent personal narrative. My fictional premise is that they together portray the reality of my life as I remember experiencing it in my various guises or roles that I play in daily life.
However, it is also important to keep in mind that all of these things are helpful for memory and experience, but that they can ultimately all be open to interpretation as can whatever lessons one may have drawn from those experiences that were derived from previous interpretations. We often revise our memories, details about out experiences become more or less important over time depending on how they continue to matter to us. When we reinterpret the lessons we learned from those experiences as we also revise our personal stories within those experiences, then we are maturing.
I felt squeemish about moving to Thailand when someone expressed their support for the notion that it was some journey or pilgrimmage (someone used that word). The calculus was very simple at one end, my wife’s family were half way around the world as were mine, I figured that I could just as well be a stranger in a strange land there as here, but she could be closer to her family. I asked her about it, she said yes, so I figured out a way to get myself to go and give it a shot. The point is, it has nothing to do with any sense of journey or ‘finding oneself’ and all that noise, but its kind of hard to shoot that bullshit down with an easy remark that doesn’t sound flippant or disrespectful to someone just trying to be sympathetic and supportive for presupposed reasons. If you interpret travel to be a meaningful, symbolic experience then I get it, but it doesn’t objectively matter whether you are going camping nearby or visiting some other place of the world, what matters is what you are doing day to day. If I wasn’t making the art I made on this trip, it would have been something else and of a different character, but really what’s the difference - its all the same old shit.
The entire project is compromised by my non-fiction writing. I never read fiction and I’ve never thought much of writing fiction. It seems like a lot of work for very little aesthetic reward. That is no excuse, I may try something like this again, or more likely, not put a written piece of the work at the heart of an entire project. I made a lot of rookie mistakes, grammatical issues related to over use of pronouns and adverbs that I am going to cull through. That is not an excuse, but an up front evaluation of the entire slideshow project. Without quality product to anchor something like this, the entire piece is compromised. I acknowledge that, but I’m working on my basic writing ability. God I love my life.