Long Story Short interweaves over a hundred video interviews made with laptops and webcams at food banks, homeless shelters, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in California. Participants discuss why they are poor, how it feels, how they cope, and what they think should be done. Narrations unfold across the screen in choruses of overlapping phrases, ideas, and experiences, revealing individual perspectives as well as the power of the collective voice.
In Long Story Short, over 100 people at homeless shelters, food banks, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in Northern California discuss their experiences of poverty – why they are poor, how it feels, how they cope, and what they think should be done. Speakers discuss money, capitalism, class, neighborhoods, welfare, violence, and unemployment, and how it feels to be broke in a country where success is equated with wealth. They discuss what they think the rich and the middle-‐class get wrong about their situations and what they think needs to be done.
Words and phrases flow across the screen like a musical ensemble, a choral voice moving across a social body of common experiences and variations on shared themes, as narrators momentarily join together, and then splinter part. The form suggests the promise of solidarity even as it depicts the reality of social isolation, the isolating process of poverty and of neoliberal forms, each speaker alone in their cell, together.
Long Story Short borrows its aesthetic and tools from social media, making a link between poverty and the technologies of a new economy that has produced a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Here these tools are used instead to amplify the voices of the poor.
Long Story Short takes at face value the “social” in social media, imagining it as something unlike its current form. Many of Long Story Short’s subjects had never before shared their views on poverty in public, let alone on video. Like social media, poverty is also viral, iterative, part of a web of connected experiences. Long Story Short envisions a social media that fills the gaps in a society with a shortage of social spaces and public forums. It imagines a scenario where social media’s promise of connection and community is partially realized, envisioned in unexpected links, connections, commonalities and solidarity among strangers, where even a quiet voice, amidst many others, can be heard.