if you can’t stop, smile as you go by
a multimedia documentary created in collaboration with Jacquelyn Johnson
We flipped coins; heads or tails, East or West, North or South. Total surrender to arbitrary instruction. If we planned accordingly, the project would make itself. It wasn’t about making beautiful images, but sticking to a methodology and taking responsibility for what we’d done.
We drove three hundred miles a day and navigated by Michelin road map but otherwise vowed not to indulge in nostalgia that was not our own. We just passed through, stopped when we had to. On the first day, we listened to local radio. Every day after, we sat silent. Though it had not mattered where we were going, the sentiment was something other than indifferent. Our agitation in the moment translates into a certain somberness.
One way of going nowhere is to remain within Corporate America, where everything looks the same. You can drive halfway across the country or more before beginning to feel something new. A veil of familiarity. We assured ourselves that if we didn’t get what we needed out of the trip to make a compelling work, we could walk our cameras down Brownsville Road and fill in the gaps.
There were no whims. We pulled the car over only twice. For five days we drove in a particular but arbitrary direction. Artifacts of satellite television. Clusters of black balloons lurking at the end of hidden driveways. A thousand golden arches. Two people who have never gone on vacations. Under the guise of leisure we have labored over the amorphous journey. We decided that, for us, stillness was an additive process. We were neither the Dorothea Lange nor the Migrant Worker. What started as a critical engagement with the bonafide American Road Trip now looks and sounds a lot like the last love song for a different way of travel.
We returned to Pittsburgh after midnight, tipping into the 7th of July. The drive home always feels longer. The hangover of wanderlust. We fell into that thick, rich, deep sleep and stayed in bed for all the next day, because we were home and for a time it would feel new again.