We All Fall Down
2016 - 2017
“We All Fall Down” is a performance/video installation inspired by footage from Hollywood Westerns from the 1940s and 50s. The piece contrasts personal family legend and memory with the implications of romanticism in depictions of the American West.
In 1948, my grandfather moved his family to Durango, Colorado to take over the valley’s only large-animal veterinary practice. At the same moment, as men like my grandfather returned from the Second World War looking for work, Colorado experienced a sudden boom in its film industry. New technology made on-location filming easier, and better roads and services made remote towns more accessible. Over the next 20 years, dozens of Western movies were filmed in southern Colorado bringing stars like Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Clarke Gable to the state. My grandfather was also quickly pulled into this new local industry, being called out day and night to treat horses and other animals on the sets.
“We All Fall Down” focuses on one particular scene my grandfather orchestrated for the 1949 film, Sand. According to my grandmother’s telling of this story, my grandfather anesthetized a whole field of horses so that they would appear as dead at the end of a battle. He stayed with the horses throughout the shooting, just outside the camera’s frame, and cared for the animals as they slowly emerged from the effects of the drugs. In effect, on a summer day in 1949 in Molas Pass outside Durango my grandfather played the part of God by first bringing on the apocalypse and then resurrecting the dead.
This performance piece aims to explore the narrative of the 1949 Western film, “Sand”, by positioning it in relation to our on-going ideas around American national identity and unified cultural heritage. The romanticism of the Western films created in the late 40s and early 50s belied the extreme violence of Native American massacres and the harsh environmental and living conditions many western settlers faced. But even as we are aware of this complex history, we continue to build our cultural narratives around pervasive stereotypes and misplaced ideals. American media disseminates the idea that we are the good guys and there is a clear and certain bad guy out there for us to defeat. However, the truth of our current situation is not nearly so straightforward. “We All Fall Down” hopes to provoke a dialogue around these cultural narratives while highlighting the extreme forms of fiction we employ to uphold idealized national identities.
Performance and Screenings at Station Independent Projects, NY, NY
July 27 – 30, 2017
July 27th – Artist Performance @ 6pm with reception to follow
July 28th – Film Screening, “Colorado Territory” (1949) @ 7pm
July 29th – Film Screening, “Ticket to Tomahawk” (1950) @ 7pm
July 30th – Installation with video @ 4 pm to 6 pm