Cara Despain

B. 1983, US
Slow Burn, 2014
Video

The simple and perpetual action in this video alludes to a larger narrative by focusing in on one element or gesture in a setting of familiarity. Much of the identity of our country and its attendant cultural disposition can be attributed to settlement and the acquisition of land and ultimately, wealth. These things historically have often been won by the use of force — both overtly violent and invisibly suppressed. The American west in particular contains narratives of prosperity, destruction, and shoot-em-up, explosive quabbles that, if exaggerated, persist in our cultural identity-from Western films and Warner Bros. cartoons to the global image of the romanticized American cowboy.

This video nods to the tropes used to portray this dimension of identity in a simple way. Set against a panoramic desert landscape, a fuse burns endlessly across the foreground from left to right. This implies an explosion that never arrives and can be applied in a broader context — the burning wick surely will ignite dynamite (to open a mine, to make a road cut, to destroy a building, to alter land) or a bomb of some kind (to kill, to subdue, to destroy), yet you never see it. It is quietly on a path of destruction, and the anticipation will be perpetually built in the piece without being sated.

Courtesy of the artist