The Wild West is arguably the most enduring myth in the American psyche. Through hundreds of novels, films and tv programs the violent, extremely bloody and often downright exploitative settlement of the American West has largely been replaced with images of stalwart settlers, and quick-handed, decisive men of action.
Philadelphia-based video artist Matthew Suib draws links between the cowboys that popular film has created and the current cowboy in the Whitehouse. Currently showing at Mercer Union, Suib’s video, “Cocked” stiches together images from a dozen or so western. In ten minutes he plays on our familiarity to the genre and gives us countless images of shifty eyes, itchy trigger fingers an tough men trying to stare each other down. “Cocked” becomes an idealized signifier of the cinematic wild west gunfight.
There is an added dimension to this of course, Suib also sees his cowboys as a metaphor for the tense standoff between President Bush and Saddam Hussein prior to the invasion of Iraq. In George W. Bush’s Spaghetti Western he’s the heroic savior, driving the tyrannical bad guys out of town. In his Western the innocent townsfolk are grateful for the rescue. It’s a delusion that he and he alone has.