“American Ghosts”

American Ghosts” by Alan Bigelow was something of a mix of kinetic story telling and flash video. The opening loading page hits you with a barrage of ghostly electronic whispering sounds which is very fitting given the theme. Following this are five people to choose from who are named after historical figures. Some are very well known, like George Washington or Paul Revere, while others are less so. I expected each to be some sort of story about the actual historical figure, but I was very surprised to find these were video stories about regular people who just happened to share the same names as these historical figures.

The videos themselves reminded me a bit of kinetic poetry. While the video played a continuous clip of a certain part of a person’s body, like two hands holding a cell phone or a pair of frowning eyes, text scrolls beneath with what the narrator of each piece is saying. It went just slow enough so I can easily keep up, but I definitely didn’t want to look away for fear of missing something.

I expected these stories to be about actual ghosts, but instead they were about living people’s lives. Usually it was about what defined that person, such as a special talent or a fact about their life. All of these people seemed like they were invisible, the people we don’t really pay attention to, like Betsy Ross, the daughter of immigrants, or Paul Revere, the psychic who predicts catastrophes. In that way, I guess they are like ghosts, beings who exist but who we only see out of the corners of our eyes.

At the end of viewing all five videos, a sixth video plays. It takes all the video clips from the five videos and fits them together to form a sort of body, and then it plays all five stories over each other while the first lines of the Declaration of Independence scroll beneath.

I think this was supposed to show how we are all united despite being invisble to each other. I don’t know these people, and I certainly don’t know everyone in the country, but we all represent one people, one body in a way. The connection to the government through the quote from the Declaration of Independence shows that we as a body control that, or that we at least should.

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