The Wild Bunch Are All Dead But Once They Ruled The West

Current project exploring my role as an artist day to day. Looking at friends who operate as artists outside of the commercial gallery system. Using the notion of the film extra or non speaking part to create space to consider the relations of care and gaps of logic in my current position.

Text:

On the 1st October 2014 my parents texted to say they had left their hotel and were coming round. I walked out of my tenement building to meet them. For about a week, through a mixture of ethics, cowardice and apathy our stair had been host to a homeless person who set up an orange tent in our communal front garden. As I stepped out into the street, I became aware that the local RBS which is at the other end of our short street was being held up by armed robbers and the place was completely secured by the sort of police officers you only see in that kind of situation. At exactly the same moment, my smiling, baby boomer parents rounded the privet.

I realized I didn’t have a clue about any of them.

At that moment, the desperation which may or may not have been part of the equation for the tent guy and the robbers seemed to join me to them more logically than to my own parents (my daughter and I had been threatened with homelessness all summer and things were wearing thin). The orange tent with its missing pole was endearing but I had been keeping my daughter out of the garden and was fearful. The robbers were armed with machetes, but hurt no one and failed to leave the bank with any money at all as they were immediately surrounded and captured. If reports were to be believed however, my own parents had eviscerated the nation’s economy and were partying on its corpse with their huge pensions and mortgage free carelessness while its youth looked down the barrel of insecurity and exploitation. I found myself held in a moment of delusional omniscience where this exact articulation of players, this exact stage direction said everything that was needed about modern Scotland whist simultaneously recognizing it as a chimera built from my own ignorance and imagination that would melt away if I tried to examine it.

I am interested in Irit Rogoff’s notion of shared significance and reclamation of seriousness. In this hopeless cacophony of ‘delinquent narratives’ what are our relations of care and how can we share significance with respect for our unknowing? I have begun to use the concept of the film extra or non speaking part as an analogy for the role of the artist, and also as a way of working with the fused narratives of people holding multiple identities with less conviction than heroes and archetypes. I have chosen to focus on the Western genre because they have such fixed roles and identities for their main characters that it throws the ambiguity of the people mooching about behind with unraveled threads of half narrative all the more into relief.

During the final section of Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid (1965), an extra dressed as a Mexican militia member is injured and lies either dead or fatally wounded on a rooftop. Quite a lot of time elapses and more action ensues, but each time we see the rooftop, the ‘Mexican’’ is still lying in position. He continues to lie face down during the iconic final ‘suicide pact’ conversation and is visible when Paul Newman and Robert Redford emerge in a hail of gunfire.

I lay on a roof as if dead or mortally wounded. I am wearing a coat which retails at £300 (but which I bought for £70). This is my ‘Creative Scotland’ coat, bought to make me look like a successful player with agency in the Creative Industries for the purposes of securing funding, exhibitions and respect.

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