LETTER TO THE HORSE
Jean-Luc Godard, who you know, once said: in westerns, the camera always follows the cowboy when he enters a saloon, but never the horse – you, who stays tied up outside (of the saloon). It’s a fact. The same is the case when the cowboy hides from his enemies behind a rock. You – you frolic and go off-screen. You stay on screen when the cowboy rides on your back, and when you are untied, during the night while he is sleeping, you flee – leaving your master helpless at the hands of his adversaries. Because you offer speed, you are a cowboy’s best defense against danger.
The German author Heinrich Böll wrote the following in a novel; it tells of a clown’s excesses in love and his career in Adenauer’s Germany: “In some Far West saloon, young and pretty blondes dance cancan under the lecherous looks of rude cowboys, trappers or gold-diggers who are going to spend two years in solitude following stinking animals. But when the same cowboys, trappers or gold-diggers want to follow the young and pretty blondes to their rooms, they usually get the door slammed in their face, or some appalling brute thrashes them mercilessly. I can imagine this is more or less supposed to suggest a concept of virtue.”
You, dear horse, are lucky this time. You are carrying a wonderful, young and beautiful woman. She is German. You stampeded in the Conquest of the West, in the United States. Is it in the Rockies? In Arizona? In any case, the countryside is made up of rocks and shrubs. It’s 1952. A car is following you, and someone is filming you. No one knows who. Sometimes the picture trembles. The tracking shot lasts 1:27 minutes. The film reel was found in a box in Germany a half century after having been shot. One knows next to nothing about the film, the cameraman, the brand of the car or you. Horse, no one knows your name. The woman you are galloping with is called Irina. She has blonde curls; she is going to return to Germany. She will have children.
Richard Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy) from 1989, a copy of which is kept at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, is an elaborate photograph based on an ad created for the cigarette brand Marlboro. It was the first “photograph” that surpassed one million dollars at a Christie’s auction in New York. “Untitled (Cowboy) is a central work in the project of deconstructing an American archetype that is as old as the first pioneers, and as opportune as the current president, Ronald Reagan, at the end of his term. Prince’s image is a copy (photography) of a copy (advertizing) of a myth (cowboy). Perpetually disappearing in the sunset, this lone wolf is also evidently the stand-in for the artist himself, perpetually searching for the meaning under the surface of things. Created at the end of a decade devoted to materialism and illusion, Untitled (Cowboy) is, in a greater sense, a meditation on a culture that prefers spectacles to actual experience.”
Indeed, dear horse, throughout the last century you were the symbol of freedom before your image became a consumer good. Men went to war and conquered a country on your back.
Irina gallops without moving away from the road, occasionally casting a glance to the car. She gallops for her own – and the camera’s – pleasure. She is wearing blue clothes; a red scarf is tied around her neck. Her path ends, she has you walking among the rocks. She is smiling. A black mountain towers behind her; from time to time the sun glares from behind it, burning the film. With you, she forms a couple of two. And with the car, a couple of three.
Guillaume Leingre, Mai 2012
(Translation Christopher Langer)