100 Days (2017) – Background

During the Trump transition I wrote a poem every night, picking out some aspect of the Transition that offered some glimmer of amusement, however sardonic, in an otherwise dreary time.

The original plan had been use the three dozen typewriters I had purchased for another project in some way, to type on photographs. The poems were originally intended to be drafts of texts that I would later use in this way, but they took on a life of their own as the project developed.

I liked reaching an audience on Instagram and Facebook. I liked the discipline of having to produce a work every night, ready or not here I come. I thought I would continue the idea through the first one hundred days of the Trump Administration.

The photographs I had been experimenting with came from an nearby antique store. I was using a few junk photos for my tests. But the antique store also had a multi-volume set of photo albums from a family in Indiana, photos from the early part of the century up through the 1970s. What if I took a photo from the album and typed the day’s headline as the caption? And so “100 Days” was born.

Every night, after 9:00 p.m. when the news of the day has mostly settled down, I post a captioned photo on Instagram and Facebook.

The combination of image and text would work with almost any of the images in the album. You could do well just choosing the images at random and slapping on today’s headline. Every test I ran, choosing images at random, worked well.

The phenomenon reminds me of the Kuleshov Effect, a demonstration by the early Russian filmmaker showing that editing itself is a major creative tool of the director’s art.

In his classic demonstration Kuleshov devised a film which initially shows a steaming bowl of soup–and then cuts to a man’s face. His expression is reserved but you can tell that he is hungry, anticipating the goodness of the soup. Then the film cuts to a scene of sadness, a child or perhaps a doll, in a small coffin. The following cut is a shot of that same man, lighted the same way, but now the man’s feelings of remorse and regret are clear–or are these hints of something else, something diabolical? In the next scene we see a woman on a couch, looking off into some distance. She is attractive, dressed in a silky rob, temptingly loose and open. The man’s face appears again, evaluating the woman, thinking of her. Despite the same framing as before, and the same lighting, it is clear he wants her–but for what? To have for himself or is his gaze the appraising one of a brothel owner? Perhaps is something else afoot–is the man a spy being tempted by an enemy? It is difficult to say exactly what from the expression on his face and with no other context to the story but these are all distinct possibilities.

The funny thing is, the footage of the man with his reserved yet emotive facial expressions are all the same, the footage is simply copied and replayed again, interposed with the other scenes. All of the interpretations, which vary so widely, are brought by the viewer in reaction to the association of one shot with the other.

Good trick. Must use it more.

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