2006, 3:40min. (video, color, sound)
“He was so positive they were giants that he neither heard the cries of Sancho, nor perceived what they were, but made at them shouting, "Fly not, cowards and vile beings, for a single knight attacks you."
The male obsession with glory, honor and personal heroics has inspired as many actual heroes as it has misguided adventurers. William Tell is very much a part of the latter tradition. The video documents a one-man re-creation of the fabled archer’s feat. In it, an armor-clad protagonist emerges from the pastoral landscape to attempt the seemingly heroic act of shooting a can off of his own head by firing a BB gun at a polished piece of marble. Much like Don Quijote’s epic charge at a windmill that he believes to be a giant, the protagonist is attempting a challenge that a spectator would perceive as both inconsequential and potentially self destructive, since he is essentially shooting at himself. However, unlike Quijote, and unlike Tell, the protagonist is aware of this danger and protects himself from the ricocheting BBs with a suit of armor. The armor and the gun, which can be seen as past and present representations of masculine power, actually undermine his image as a heroic man by revealing his vulnerability. This is especially true in the case of the armor since its purpose is to protect him from his own inaccuracy. Furthermore, its metal construction provides far greater protection than is necessary to stop BBs, severely limiting his mobility and thus making the act of balancing the can on his head, and picking it up when it falls off, almost as much of a struggle as hitting it. While the armor is clearly overprotection, the gun is just the opposite. It appears to be a 9mm handgun, but it actually shoots BBs, associating the performance as much with an adolescent shooting at cans as with a would-be knight involved in a heroic historical re-creation.
At the end of the video, having been foiled several times by a light breeze that easily blows the can off of his head, the protagonist finally hits his target and celebrates his victory. Arms in the air, he stumbles backwards, and finally comes to rests against the backdrop of his set. The motionless figure sits by himself in the empty landscape, the only witness to his small triumph.
- William Lamson
The pursuit of flight, no matter how flawed or hopeless the attempt, places the amateur in the heroic position of trying to transcend his place on earth. This project investigates the flight endeavor as it represents both the physical desire to escape earth and the metaphysical hope to connect with the divine.
Joshua Tree Launch Series
Monument Valley Flight Attempt
WILLIAM LAMSON (USA)