Aaron Schuman’s Once Upon a Time in the West 2008-9

‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (1969)

Check out Aaron’s work inspired by the Sergio Leone sites in Almeria, Spain.

http://www.aaronschuman.com/

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One thought on “Aaron Schuman’s Once Upon a Time in the West 2008-9

  1. Schuman’s work seems to be very much in the spirit of Sergio Leone’s glorious spaghetti westerns; exploring similar concerns (the myth of America) through similar means (rearticulating/reinventing generic conventions outside of America) but always with that fabled region – the West – looming large within its deframed frame; its meaning no longer fixed but negotiated between object and subject.

    Taking something of a leap, what this put me in mind of was comic Rich Hall’s exploration of the Western and its place in the American national consciousness in the BBC4 documentary ‘How the West was Lost’. Hall goes to great lengths to valorise the Western genre and its concomitant region, paying tribute to those versions of masculine, American exceptionalism present in the work of John Ford. Whilst ‘The Searchers’ might go some way to offering an alternative vision of the West in which the cultural melting pot of the frontier is more to the fore, Ford’s work tends to represent a perfect example of the recidivist, reductionist tendencies of regionalist thought.

    Hall’s brief detour into the work of Anthony Mann offers some respite: where the monolithic tectonic features of the West in Ford’s ouevre represent an attempt to delimit and boundary the region, in Mann’s West they are suggestive of the psychological torment of the central characters. However, when his tour of the Western genre reaches Leone, Hall is vehement in criticism of these ‘bastardised’ visions of the West; their operatic tendencies and twisted homages to the region at odds with his own regional imaginary. What grew from Leone’s experimental approach to the genre/region – the directorial attempts of Clint Eastwood with their critical regionalist tendencies, for example – are met with similar derision for their bespoiling of the myth of the West.

    What is surprising here is that another of Hall’s documentaries for BBC4 – ‘The Dirty South’ – demonstrates the comic taking a critical regionalist standpoint when exploring representations of the region with which he is most readily associated; challenging its portrayal as a hotbed of racism, rednecks and amoral sexuality. All of this demonstrates the allure of both standpoints: the regionalist interpretation (in this instance the West as it stands in for America) communicates a triumphalist version of a dominant peoples origins whose appeal lies in its supposed unequivocal righteousness; whilst taking the critical regionalist view allows for the challenging of such regionalist assumptions.

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