America has what Christopher Lynn calls "accessibility" and "exportability."
In the first show he's fully organized for the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Lynn isn't only discussing the global supremacy of the U.S. economy. He's also referring to our collective American past, rooted in forced colonization of the indigenous landscape. The residual effect of colonization in contemporary life worldwide is the concept of Manifest: Colonial Tendencies of the West.
In a public lecture Lynn gave in late August outlining the show, he touched on two large elements of colonial art. Some artists tapped into the import and export of U.S. culture to create what he calls its "hybridic identity." Others explored the way a country will continue to replicate Western values when the values are, in fact, meaningless to their own cultural sensibilities.
"Imitation can go both ways to dominate culture," Lynn says.
Western ideology persists in the U.S. For instance, the cowboy symbolizes mutually exclusive good-versus-bad; this American ideal characterizes one of the most controversial pieces in the show.
With Super Columbine Massacre RPG, Danny Ledonne created a video game built around Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Viewers play the game, from the distant, pixilated seat of early video-game technology, first as Harris, then as Klebold, encountering characters all the way through the 1999 school shooting. After their suicides, the boys reach an afterlife Ledonne created.
Meanwhile, Louise Noguchi, who will be speaking at the opening, accents positive attributes in cowboy "mythology." Fascinated by trick roping and stunt riding, Noguchi photographed Wild West entertainment shows she visited in theme parks around the country. Her works depict a split-second reaction immediately before or after the violent events in a quintessential cowboy shoot-out.
In "Blow Back," she caught an actor throwing himself backward after a shot in the chest. The interplay between artificiality and reality based on colonial lore underscores Manifest.
"In my mind, I was like a photojournalist, capturing that decisive moment ... which is so fictitious," Noguchi says.
Noguchi and Lynn agree that Colorado Springs is a perfect location for this show.
"[It's] the fact that we are located in the traditional West, and on top of that, we have a strong military [presence]."
Military force was the strong arm that made colonization possible, and still does. Lynn adds that suburban growth also speaks to our expansion.
Yet he's careful not to intentionally instill guilt in his audience.
In Noguchi's words, "I think that the artists [are not] taking colonialism head on, which a lot of people have done, but the residue of it, what's seeping into society."
Manifest: Colonial Tendencies of the West
Gallery of Contemporary Art at UCCS, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.
Runs through Nov. 17; Opening reception, Friday, Sept. 14, 5:30 to 7 p.m. for UCCS students and supporters; public reception, 7 to 9 p.m.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday and 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday
Free; call 262-3567 or visit galleryuccs.org for more.