Without a Trace

Creative Work
Record Status: 
Description (in English): 

In July 2007 I began saving the daily image from the online version of the comic strip "Real Life Adventures" removing the text from its panels, so all that was left were the empty thought bubbles. I think of this collection as "Empty Thoughts from Real Life." My reason for doing this was to create an archive of generic comic strip images stripped of their original text so that later both the text and its container could be used for other content. 

In addition to altering the comic, one of my other ongoing daily rituals has been to make hand-drawn tracings from the newspaper. In these drawings I bring elements from different pages of the paper together. I often trace what appears on the front and backsides of a single page by holding it up to a window and drawing over selected images and texts. My hand drawings are quirky and purposely imprecise. They become a distilled interpretation of the news. 

I have always been interested in how the computer can process an image or "trace" and how the computer's tracing differs from my own. By selecting specific photoshop filters I can make a news image look like a black and white line drawing. The computer's drawing uses an algorithm, whereas my drawings are based on subjectivity. 

"Without A Trace" is a project that brings together these disparate collections and through juxtaposition recontextualizes them. 

The website takes as its point of departure the idea of a daily ritual. The site is meant to change once a day. For each iteration (each day for a year) a comic image, a trace drawing and three words from the original strip will be randomly selected from the archive. These will be presented with a live news feed (RSS headline) and an image taken from the New York Times. As news is fluid during a given day the headlines and news images can change creating new juxtapositions. A screen grab will be generated at the same time each day creating a representational snap shot of the day. At the end of the project there will be an archive presenting the screen grabs for the year. 

While the main page of the site is this five part coupling, I have also included a way to view the juxtapositions using previously rendered news images. Under the random version link one can refresh the page collaging archived elements. Here only the headline is live. 

The title "Without A Trace" has multiple meanings. A trace references a memory. It is what remains when almost everything else disappears. A trace is an action. One traces an image or traces over something. 'Without A Trace' is also the phase we use to refer to something that has disappeared leaving no record. The news is ephemeral, as is the newspaper. It has a given structure yet its online content changes continually. In this project I have attempted to take these disappearing elements and bring them together for the time they are viewed on the webpage. However, like all web content these juxtapositions will disappear when the browser is closed. Only to live in memory--both ours and that of the computer-- challenging the title and the notion; without a trace. 

(Source: author's description)

I ♥ E-Poetry entry: 
Contributors note: 

"Without a Trace" is a 2008 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation.

Screen shots: 
Without a Trace - November 7, 2009
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Record posted by: 
Eric Dean Rasmussen