This Is Bliss
This Is Bliss is a transmedia narrative project investigating the vanishing roadside geography and culture of a rural Idaho town named Bliss. The project is philosophically rooted in a broad consideration of how entrenched mythologies of place and traditional mythologies of happiness collide, and are frequently confounded, in a location that bears a complex narrative of booms and busts and reflects the complicated history of American Idealism and Manifest Destiny.
The richly complex historical significance of Bliss is evidenced by its positioning on the Oregon Trail, its emergence as a town during the construction of the first railroads in the continental US, its positioning on the Snake River Valley, which was investigated photographically by the likes of Timothy O’ Sullivan and Ansel Adams and hosts the site of daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump a gorge with his motorcycle in 1974, as well as being the home town of Holden Bowler, the inspirational namesake for J.D. Salinger’s quintessential malcontent Holden Caulfield in "The Catcher in the Rye". Bliss’ apex, however, came in the mid-20th century during the height of road trip America and only began to diminish when Interstate-84 was constructed, redirecting vehicular traffic away from a once thriving community. As a result, Bliss has been in slow economic decline ever since, a familiar story plaguing small towns in America for decades. All that remains in Bliss is two gas stations, a small school, a church, a diner, and two saloons to service its 300 current residents. Through a varied response to its contemporary landscape and inhabitants, This Is Bliss contrasts romantic visions of the American West with its contemporary reality and considers how the heights of idealism are obtained on both a personal and cultural level.