Swiss designer speaks to Brookynites for cross-country project interviewing American voters
‘Day After Reading’ Sets Spotlight on Readers Rather than News
This month through December, Swiss designer Ludovic Balland and a team of three others are road tripping across 20 different cities in the U.S., interviewing people in the period immediately before and after the U.S. presidential election. Most recently, Balland and his team interviewed two Brooklynites. The project, called “Day After Reading,” aims to produce an innovative document about American voters, capturing the expectations and aftermath surrounding this major political event.
“Day After Reading” sets the spotlight on the readers, not on the news itself. Each interview provides a personal, individual view of daily consumption of news. The trip began in New York City on Labor Day, and Balland and his team are interviewing individuals for a few days in each city they stop in, publishing the interviews in print and online media and then traveling to the next city for another round of interviews.
Interviews will represent a wide cross-section of American life, as Balland and his team are traveling to Washington, D.C. in the week of the election, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle, among other cities. Scheduled interviews so far include a former CNN anchor, a Black Lives Matter activist, an NYC taxi driver and more.
The U.S. trip is the third and considerably most ambitious iteration of “Day After Reading,” a project Balland began in 2014 in San Francisco as a response to an invitation to include work in an exhibition called “All Possible Futures.” Considering the future led Balland to reflect on the immediate past and landed at people’s interpretation of that past. The project continued in Valencia and Santa Clarita, California in 2015 as a workshop at CalArts.
Below are the interviews with Brooklynites, which were conducted on Sept. 6. (More information on the project is available at www.dar-news.com).
INTERVIEW WITH BROOKLYNITE AHLAM SAID
What news did you read/hear/see yesterday?
Yesterday actually I was looking at news from a couple of months ago regarding a policy called 287G that’s out of Houston. So the local sheriff there is working with police to basically deport and detain immigrants. So that’s where my head was yesterday, because we have some work going on there. The work that I do obviously forces me to read what’s going on, but any chance I get to escape from it I happily do so. You go crazy.
What’s the most shocking image/headline/caption from the U.S. Elections?
Sadly it’s not shocking to me anymore. I feel like this is something that has been in the making for a long time and now America is forced to deal with the monster it has created. Sadly nothing shocks me anymore. I think that for some people that are maybe disconnected, not paying attention — this may come as a shocker, but it doesn’t shock me.
Do you think the media has done a good job of covering the U.S. elections?
No, I think the reason why we are faced with the candidates that we have today is mostly to do with the way that the media has covered it. They’ve given someone like Trump massive coverage. They haven’t allowed time for people who have substantial knowledge and experience of issues, who are serious candidates; they’ve completely looked over them, just because Trump is what brings in ratings. It’s a silly game, it’s really dangerous that they’ve allowed their ratings to sort of drive their work and that’s what the American public looks to in order to be informed, or in this case, uninformed.
How do you think the media should be covering the elections in a more informative way?
By asking serious questions. Really inviting serious dialogue, as opposed to what they think will get people riled up and excited or cause division. It just seems like a big joke to me now.
How does your job affect how you read the news? Do you read it through a particular lens?
I’m a Yemeni-American and I work mostly with undocumented youth from South America. So I’m constantly reading the news, not only as a Muslim American, but also as someone who works closely with undocumented youth and how they’re perceived in the media, how we’re perceived as Muslim Americans. And just as an everyday American, how what’s going on is affecting my neighborhood, how it’s affecting my friends and family and the future generations of this country as well. And quite frankly around the world — we can’t kid ourselves, what we do here and what our leaders do, the decisions that they make or that they hold back from affect not just people here in the States, but people around the world.
If you were a journalist, what topic would you cover?
I think I would like to cover a local beat.
How will we be consuming the news in the distant future?
I think it’s changed already, right? We’re consuming it in very small tidbits; we’re looking at headlines, we’re not reading as much anymore. Right now we’re consuming most of our news online — newspapers are struggling with it. You can tell because I get ads all the time: 40 percent off New York Times online or whatever it is — they’re desperately trying to find a way to catch up with the online world and how young people are consuming media.
Imagine, in billions of years the human race is gone and alien anthropologists find an archive of our media. What would they think of us?
They would be really disappointed, lately, especially this year, because it seems so absurd. Again it’s not shocking to me but I think it’s just absurd what we’ve allowed ourselves to come to. It’s frankly sad what we’ve allowed our action or inaction to produce. Not only here, but what’s going on in the world, we’ve had a direct hand in it. It’s unfortunate that we have helped destroy lives, we’ve helped destroy this earth. I don’t know if they have anything to come back to, the way things are going now!
Do you ever dream about the news?
More and more, especially as a young person, but more so with my new son. I’m constantly thinking about the world that he’s going to live in and the media really doesn’t help to create a more just world. Our words carry so much weight. For a lot of people they’re just what we say or what we type out; many journalists take their job lightly, but what they don’t realize is that their words have a profound effect on the way that people communicate with each other, the way that people act towards one another. We see it every single day. The rhetoric is so dangerous and it’s starting to affect people. If you have someone that’s really sick, they should not be watching the news at all mentally — seriously, because I think it has riled up people in ways that I think are really dangerous.
INTERVIEW WITH BROOKLYNITE JIBRIL MOHAMMED
What did you read or hear or see yesterday in the news?
I heard that there was a shooting in the neighborhood of two young men, of a young man and a young woman, of a few young people who passed away from a shooting in the neighborhood.
Do you follow a particular topic or beat?
No, nothing in particular, everything — I read everything pretty much — anything that’s relevant.
What is the most shocking headline/image/caption you’ve seen from the U.S. election?
I think it might be some of the outrageous statements that Donald Trump has made in the media; concerning the Mexicans, concerning Muslims, concerning black people, concerning basically everybody — he’s made some outrageous statements.
How well do you think the media is covering the U.S. election?
I think the media is very manipulative in trying to gear the minds of the masses in a particular direction, whatever that might be. I haven’t quite captured the direction they’re trying to take the masses of people in and how they depict certain candidates.
What is the mission of Respect for Life Bookstore?
The mission of the store is to enlighten people who are mentally and spiritually deprived in the community.
How will we be consuming the media in the distant future?
Oh, the media is definitely changing, because we have other alternatives. We have online media, other alternative outlets that we are following besides the standard daily news. I think online is gonna be something that is the premier idea in media.
Do you ever dream about the news?
Yes, I dream that the news will be independent, that it will be bold in its recording and I’m dreaming that it will be very much independent as opposed to just going along with the program and following other corporate influences that might influence the media.
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