Westering

Westering presents a cross-country journey undertaken inside the virtual landscape of Google Street View. The moving image has been constructed by redacting frames of the still photographic landscape and retaining only the computer-generated, interpolated movement between the camera’s current location and a distant point on the horizon. The route of the video fragmentarily maps the mythological westward journey that has become part of the American vernacular by tracing my family’s historical migration from the Port of Philadelphia to the American Midwest, then continuing westward on the Old Lincoln Highway and Route 66, following parts of the pioneering Oregon Trail, and finally extending to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Gesturing towards the well-established use of the cinematic image as a surrogate for geographic travel, the ability of the camera to collapse both time and physical distance is taken to an irrational extreme. Performed in 2009, at a moment of profound economic and social instability within the United States, Westering archives a continuous visual passage along a route significant to national history and identity while simultaneously rendering it into a placeless landscape. The resulting image is, in a sense, a literal visualization of the doctrine of American progress, while also acting as a meditation that questions its assumed meaning and efficacy. The experience this travelogue offers is not the expected affirmation of geographic conquest, but rather an uncertain journey that is at once romantic and alienating.