I sometimes in idle moments think up art projects I’d like to do. Usually on a grand scale, with near impossible elements. Something way beyond my reach, but that compels me, anyway, to ponder their logistics.
My latest imaginary art project is one that I think might be feasible, though I’ve no money to do it, no connections to anyone who might sponsor me. Here it is though:
I conceived of an epic journey across North America by Greyhound, going to every stop on the line and taking pictures of what I found. Thinking up a song for each picture, appropriate to mood, or perhaps suggested -or even sung – by folk I meet along the way. I’d gather pieces of wood, leaves, plastics, found images, letters. Mailing those findings home in a box marked with the name of the town. I’d get back on the bus to the next place and do it all over again. Maybe sometimes I’d stop in a motel for the night and for a shower. Any photos I took there at dusk, looking in or out, could be added to a ‘night supplement’. I know my talents as a photographer are limited, but it’s for the record, not for the beauty of the thing. Record of a moment, of place and fleeting things witnessed.
But for the main show – in the gallery they’d hang the blown-up pictures. Headphones underneath to play the song. A small shelf with the relics laid out. A note beside, with the name of the town, the date I visited, the people I met. This exhibit could travel too. Return to the places I’d been. I understand that this kind of art is an imposition on place, so there would be feedback slots where people from those places could slip in their own photos, the songs they’d want. We could make up a book of these images and mine, with credit to everyone and no one privileged over the other – just the town name, a series of pictures, a song list. A map at the back of my journey.
I thought I’d do this for America only, but perhaps America doesn’t need my help making art out of its own sense of place. And I know quite a few places. Somewhere new for me then? Canada would be immense. Every small town, every wrong-side-of-the-tracks and brilliant vista and tiny house on a grey field and lake shore crowded with pines, across that huge country.
I’d need a good coat and hat, I think.