Cowboys

Scrolling back through earlier entries, I was suddenly struck by a certain similarity between the screen grab of the cowboy video and works by my friend Natalie Dowse. Regular readers will know that I am a fan of her work, but it is a coincidence - all the same I can't believe I didn't notice before.

This is as good a time as any to explain the inspiration for the video. One day when I was little (I think around age 8), I went to a friend's house. It must have been a weekend, and it was sunny. His father was watching a cowboy film on a black and white TV, and he had the curtains drawn to cut the glare from the sun. That peculiar, particular, quality of light. However, the reason the incident stuck in my mind for such a long time is this:

There was a deep blue gel, similar to a photographic filter, covering the TV screen. I recall that it was a proprietary item rather than home-made. I remember being puzzled by this, and I asked my friend's father what it was for: without turning his eyes from the TV, he answered "It makes it colour." I didn't say anything else after that. At first I assumed that by means of some technical miracle this device transformed the black-and-white image into Glorious Technicolor and I hadn't noticed. But no. It was just bathed in blue. I remained puzzled.

I wondered about this often since. Did he 'see' a full colour image, or did he know it was blue? Had he been hoodwinked by some advertisement promising the earth?

This was the seed of the idea. I developed this further, and although I don't want to give too much away, it became what I was hinting at when I mentioned invented principles and ideas, deception and illusion. For example, the early Hollywood presentation of 'cowboys and indians' and everything else the studios touched, how it was all manufactured and engineered, how this affected our perception, and how far removed it all was from reality. This extends out to almost all areas of that which informs our society.

I wanted to capture something of the strange 'sense' of that moment all those years ago. In some ways I can now see that this may have been a turning point in my personal development. Grown-ups aren't infallible. So much of our world was (and still is) seen through a fug of misunderstanding and misinformation, intentional and otherwise. I wanted to point to some of that, and more besides. Perhaps now it is clearer why I found it such a struggle to capture.

I'm happy that the video works for me. I have yet to settle on the title, but 'Cowboys' is probably very apt.

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