American Document
American Document

Since the conclusion of World War II, the ethos of the Roosevelt administration (1933-1945) and the achievements of the New Deal era have been celebrated and propelled by official rhetoric. American Document is a dynamic storytelling platform which challenges and deconstructs the validity of this long-sustained authority in the United States.

Between 1935 and 1944, the United States Resettlement Administration (1935-1937), Farm Security Administration (1937-1942), and Office of War Information (1942-1944) contributed to the formation and capture of a panoramic portrait of America in the form of a monumental photographic survey. Collectively, these photographs constitute the historic Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information archive and impart an unparalleled documentary account of the New Deal era. Through a creative manipulation of archival photographs drawn from the FSA-OWI archive, American Document is a database documentary that reveals the stories of an enduring people whose lives coincided with one of the most turbulent periods in American history, and whose independence was subject to the will of the Roosevelt administration. In an era characterized by the effects of the Great Depression and World War II, American Document engages a specific economy of archival evidence to question and illuminate how state socialism was imposed on an unsuspecting people at the expense of individual liberty, free enterprise, and the ebb and flow of the American dream.

American Document is expressed as a database documentary on web platform, supported by random algorithmic modulation and a multilinear narrative structure. The multilinear narrative structure is a translation of the artist's editorial reading of the FSA-OWI archive, and comprises of a database of 2,500 archival photographs characterized by embedded text and captions, and a paradigm of thematic expository text. Inspired by the documentary tradition of representing others, American Document provokes the audience to consider and assess New Deal era history in the presence of archival evidence, latent truth, and the artist's voice. In the present day, American Document is a metaphor for the types of circumstances that arise when so much power is artificially concentrated in governmental institutions.

The archival photographs reproduced in American Document are drawn from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection. American Document was produced in the Documentary Media Program (MFA) at Ryerson University 2012.