Monday, March 18, 2013

eldorado indians

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about the installation that appeared outside La Tienda, the locally run and oriented gallery/shopping/gym/eatery complex in Eldorado - that makes it sound less endearing and more glitzy than this community oriented enterprise actually is.  The lifesize plywood figures are by Thom Ross, originally belonging to a more compositionally staged installation on Ocean Beach in San Francisco based on a photograph of 100 members of Buffalo Bill's Wild West who paraded there in 1902.  In Eldorado, now - to quote Ross - "they appear as curious riders who have materialized in the sagebrush to be seen as each viewer wants to see them.  The issue for me is not one of right or wrong, good or bad, but rather how does both our collective memory and our personal interpretation allow us to see what it is that the figures represent."

In June 2011, they were quite startling.  But now they - or those that are left - have weathered a little, and are blending much more obviously into the scenery.  I went and took a whole lot of photos today, because I want to use them to open up a paper I'm giving at Michigan in May on the Indian becoming "ordinary;" on transatlantic familiarity from the mid 1880s to 1905 or so.  It seems to me that they work as a wonderful visual analogue to the process whereby an image - let's say the version of the Indian put over by Bill Cody - draws on and becomes the stereotype, which becomes so familiar that it becomes the cliche, or maybe, better yet, the Bourdieu-ian/Bartheian doxa.   One just gets used to them ...

... and the politics of the past can even, evidently, be re-appropriated ...

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