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Pierre R. Berastaín Headshot

Meeting Amtrak's Cross-Country Passengers

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Train travel was the primary form of long distance transportation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Trains were romantic, glamorous spaces and even served as luxurious hotels.

Today airplanes have largely replaced trains, but while airplanes pass over landscapes, trains cross them. As a result, travelers no longer see areas of the country that were accessible only by train. In a post-railway era in which airplanes dominate long-distance travel, we might be surprised at what the American experience and landscapes look like from the train.

Social dynamics of traveling, too, have been affected by this change of transportation modes. The different social spaces within the train allow for personal mobility and prolonged social interactions that do not occur in other forms of transportation.

This virtual installation not only revives the romanticized nature of train travel, but also hints at issues of class, race, and gender, the politics of a federal transportation system, and the environment. The images in this exhibit aim to capture fleeting encounters: trees appear and disappear, streams meander against the direction of the speeding locomotive, and we meet companions with whom we connect deeply, though fleetingly.

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