Katri Walker: North West
Intriguing exploration of Scottish/Wild West links
This article is from 2011.
This triptych of work by Edinburgh-born artist Katri Walker recasts the landscape of Scotland as the wilderness of the American old west, quite literally in the case of the titular central work. Projected over three connected screens, the rocky cliffs and plains of Assynt are recast in ‘North West’ as an undiscovered prairie promising exploration and adventure simply through their widescreen cinematic presentation. In the context of the rest of the exhibition, we consider the Scots who settled in America in its early years and their reaction to the arid landscapes of the Midwest compared to the grassy glens of their home country: a lone sheep on a hilltop in ‘North West’ echoes the desolation of the Highlands post Clearances.
Elsewhere, the perspective of America from Scotland is brought up to date and focused quite precisely through the lens of half a century of Hollywood interpretation. In the film ‘The Making of Three Guns for a Killing’ a group of enthusiasts are filmed making a low-budget home movie in one of their Aberdeen gardens, amidst a custom-built Western town set called ‘Tranquility City’. Their enthusiasm is endearing, their accents earnestly mid-Atlantic, the tropes they use – dirty leather dusters, low-slung six-shooter belts, grizzled verbal drawling – studiedly culled from the films of John Wayne and John Ford.
As in the photographic portrait ‘Pipe Major Wyatt Earp’, a kilt-wearing piper whose huge moustache echoes that of Earp on his tattooed upper arm, this work reflects historical representations of both countries that are largely constructed, yet enduringly ‘real’ through the repetition of cultural narratives. The idea us intriguing, yet the subject feels only partially explored here.
The Old Ambulance Depot, 77 Brunswick Depot, until 4 Sep (not Sun/Mon), free.