Westworld


Harmonica
36×48
Oil on panel
2013

ganey-once-upon-a-time-in-the-west-harmonica-36x48-2013

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” – Hans Gruber, “Die Hard”

“Alexander wept upon hearing that there were infinite worlds, real­iz­ing that he had not yet conquered even one of them.” – Plutarch

While this will seem a strange example as the basis of an artist statement, illustrating a quote and misquote was my best way of paralleling my thoughts on “Westworld” as a series of interest.

The quote is about Alexander The Great as he ruminates over his scope in the world.

The misquote is from a scene in “Die Hard”, a late-eighties action movie. Hans Gruber, played by the late Alan Rickman, delivers us his truth as a well dressed, educated, criminal-mastermind who rattles off “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. Benefits of a classical education.” Gruber doesn’t say he’s quoting Plutarch, and the mass majority of viewers assume that this is a direct quote. To the modern audience, Alexander The Great is weeping because there’s nothing left to conquer, which makes Gruber a symbol of the end of the west, the known lands, combed over by those last conquerers. Ultimately his undoing is by a “cowboy” who will outsmart the well dressed, bilingual, classical trash talking, calmly cruel bad guy by being a lone gunmen. The treatise for the wild west is built on this archetype: Cowboy/Gunslinger/Hero/Frontiersman > The Unknown.

Not many people will learn Plutarch’s quote: Alexander is weeping because of his realization that his actions are trivial within the scope of the universe. Plutarch was a biographer who didn’t care for history. He relied on anecdotes and trivia to shape real people into moral lessons. The map of the world was still unknown, so the conquerer fails by understanding his limitations with space and time.

I focus on both quotes as manifest destiny encrypted inundations which illustrate cultural perceptions of time and space. What I would argue is that memory and knowledge share little interaction.

“Westworld” is an ongoing investigation into Southwestern art, myth, and its link to the pioneer spirit. The foundation of this work is based on this question. Can you take the Southwestern narrative and make it into contemporary art? If you said you were making Southwest art, a person would think about canyons, and cowboys, and tribal symbols, and that Kokopelli thing. Basically all “Southwest art” is a pictorially constructed fantasy, a vast narrative, an archive of visual poetry that lingers on memory and feeds on nostalgia. The Westworld paintings speak to dis-information and technology skewing our sense of a legend. By glitching Western stills, I have abstracted or broken the image to presently occupy the now. Only through viewing the origin glitched can the true corruption of the iconic Wild West displace the viewer from associating the past with the present. We still have space and time to travel.