originally published in Artillery Magazine Jan/Feb 2010 Vol. 4 Issue 3
Margo Victor at The Company
In Western films the shootout is the money-shot. Two characters, their legs astride, gaze at each other in high-noon’s heat. The camera lingers on their sweating bodies before they quickly draw pistols. A loud bang and the loser falls. In Rotten Riotous West Margo Victor teases apart this well-worn scene, providing the viewer with breathing room to appreciate the beauty in the spectacle.
Victor’s evocative film carries the exhibition. It opens on a cowboy hat wearing woman played by Jenny Shimizu, in a cold and barren landscape. Gun in hand, she is immediately struck by an off-camera assailant’s bullet and hits the ground. This happens again, and again, from multiple angles. A hand massaging a fresh wound follows, and blood incomprehensibly drips, as if defying gravity, towards the top of the frame. Aspects of this scenario are reshot from multiple points of view, eventually leading to Shimizu firing her own gun directly at the camera. Like gorgeous raw snippets for a later feature, the work is like unedited dailies from a lost Sergio Leone film. By slowing down the action and framing the suggestive details, Victor deftly rearticulates the typical shootout as a caring, almost romantic battle with unknown forces.
In another room Victor presents a selection of paintings that, after careful looking in the right reflected light, reveal themselves as painted stills from her film, obliterated by swaths of metallic silver paint and curvilinear details. While these alluring works bring out one’s inner magpie, they fail to illicit the same sustained meditative pleasure as their source material. One is left to wonder why Victor, an avowed painter, made such an arresting film, but such staid paintings.