I Am a Bullet (with Doug Aitken)

Crown, 2000

The title of this mélange of journalism, cultural critique, and pop art comes directly from the mouth of the only man who has ever traveled close to the speed of sound without a vehicle. In 1960, Captain Joseph Kittinger jumped from a helium balloon almost 20 miles up, with 99 percent of the earth’s atmosphere beneath him. He plummeted at 614 mph, but strangely, felt nothing. Until his senses reoriented themselves, he thought he was floating. 

Right now, according to the creators of this intriguing book, acceleration is the main event. It is “the prime physical, technological and even spiritual engine of this moment.” The question the book tries to answer is, How do we experience speed? To find out, the author and photographer went on-site to document 10 subcultures that particularly embody the strategy of constant movement as an effort to get outside of time. Probing essays and photo collages examine public auctions, which feed on the increasing frenzy of consumerism, and the infamously speedy Japanese youth culture, where individualistic critique is emerging for the first time and identity is up for grabs. Truckers become a rolling metaphor for America as they constantly fail to escape from time. Demolition derby drivers look for raw catharsis. And in clock-free Las Vegas, “no time is good time and good time is lucky.” Then there is the pandemic of gangs on the Sioux reservations in South Dakota, an idea introduced through media bombardment. This is not necessarily easy reading (the typeface itself is often tiny), but it does offer fascinating insight into the American mythological terrain of becoming (which requires perpetual motion) and the consequences of “constantly treading water at the surface of change.” — Lesley Reed, Amazon.com