Joachim Koester’s Video Captures the Dance of the Wild West

THE DAILY PIC: The Danish artist gets at how gunmen moved, and move us.


THE DAILY PIC: This is a still from a wild “cowboy video” by Danish artist Joachim Koester that was recently screening at Greene Naftali gallery in New York. (Click on my image to see a clip.) Koester’s piece is called The Place of Dead Roads, and it presents four figures out of the Wild West going through the motions of preparing to duel it out. I mean “going through the motions” very literally: It’s as though they’ve gathered into their own bodies all the little twitches and tics that gunslingers have displayed over the last century of Hollywood westerns; they run through the entire repertoire, at high speed, during the video’s half hour. If you’ve ever watched footage of Chinese peasants or Maasai warriors, you’ll know that our most basic bodily posture and motions are shaped by the culture we’re born into. I remember, as a seven- or eight-year-old, walking away from every western movie with a body that felt different–more gun-ready–than when I went in, and feeling a cowboy’s swagger in my walk and a shooter’s twitch in my fingers. Koester has, miraculously, captured all that in his piece–made all the more potent because it shows both men and women infected by the Wild West’s peculiar Saint Vitus Dance. (Speaking of dance, this seems to me to be a great example of where the best of it is tending these days.)

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