Single channel video, 8 minutes, 2001
Most Westerns transform a genocidal history into heroic fiction, using the myth of the frontier as a justification. The Monument Valley project is a parody of this kind of transformations and blurs the boundaries between past and present, fictional history and contemporary reality, and popular culture and fine art.
Monument Valley interrupts conventional constructions of narrative, history as fiction, nature as an open stage for expansionist fantasy, and expressions of control through objectification.
Monument Valley combines video footage from several sources that relate to the famous landscape and tourist destination of the American Southwest. Monument Valley, located in the Navajo Indian Reservation on the border between Arizona and Utah, continues to fascinate tourists worldwide, drawing from a mystique of the Hollywood cinematic "Western." The video juxtaposes contemporary footage of tourists visiting the site, shot by Liselot van der Heijden, with excerpts from the famous 1950's Western "The Searchers" and a television documentary on the production of "The Searchers" produced around the same time.
The installation is set in a separate room and the main video (12 minutes, in a continuous loop) is projected as large as the wall, at the entrance. The image is overwhelming for the viewer, larger than life. The viewer enters with only a close-up view of the video, unable to oversee the whole image. To see the full picture one has to enter the dark room. The video is projected onto the entering viewer, who becomes a tourist, looking at the absurd scenery, an unwilling accomplice. Inside the room is a small (rear)-projection screen (set in the wall) with a loop of John Wayne pulling endless repeating acrobatic tricks with his gun. This image is extremely small in comparison to the large screen. On the back wall is a small lightbox with a quote of the Native American writer Sherman Alexie: "The only thing more pathetic than an Indian on TV is an Indian watching an Indian on TV."