The American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959 sought to be a more ambitious event than one to merely lure in Russian workers to envy the latest in consumer goods and future technologies. In Charles and Ray Eames’ commission ‘Glimpses of the USA’ a multi-screen film served as an introduction to American life, in which commonalities were underlined with Russia - how both nations share the night sky, landscapes that move from forest to desert, patterns of commuting and family life. At the time of the Cold War, mutually assured destruction and the House Un-American Activities Committee this was an oddity yet still an act of propaganda for the ideology of the ‘free world’. For Dallas Seitz’s ‘The American Story’ at IMT this event is bought into context with desert relics and found works drawn from border crossings, meteorite hunters and the dismantling of Seward Johnson’s 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn Monroe.
The deserts that surround Palm Springs are full of ‘aliens’, from the ‘snowbirds’ escaping the hash winters of Canada to the untraceable footsteps wiped out in passageways that link Mexico to the Arizona desert. Exploring the detritus left from such American mythologies, is to create a space for possibility described by Douglas Coupland in ‘Generation X’ in which you: ‘breathe dust and walk with the dogs—to look at a rock or a cactus and know that I am the first person to see that cactus and that rock’. It is a space in which Seitz’s work becomes free to make connections. A meteorite and a lead fibreglass plastic Chihuahua are placed as ‘accidental sculptures’ on plinths constructed to mimic Eames’ designs for pylons. Part of the meteorite was shaved off and sent for tests to determine its place of origin in the universe, the Chihuahua was a descendant of the Mexican Techichi companion dog - references for both works that echo their complexities of belonging.
The works in ‘The American Story’ reflect and echo each other. A series of C-type photographic prints have been printed onto Perspex, over-layering a test site number board that proclaims ‘#36’ with the dismantled legs of Monroe. The act connects to the year of Monroe’s death. An image of a border crossing site is placed next to an artificial palm tree that acts as an aerial mast. Here another conflict is indicated, more unauthorised migrants pass through the Arizona border than in any other area of the USA/Mexico border, entering a terrain that is inhospitable and deserted, hoping to gain passage to the promised America. Here telecommunications have greater a greater freedom to roam than the body.
The body as alien is present throughout Seitz’s work - it is tracked, monitored, given passage, speculated over. In his film work of the dismantling of Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ a group of workers cluster under her billowing skirts, seen by Seitz as a deconstruction, abject speculation and the pulling apart of a body made of stories. All myths are subject to renewal, here Seitz’s work is active as a brilliant kaleidoscopic re-appropriation of junk culture and debunked ideologies. This series of still images in the film is accompanied by Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. The use of this track underpins how we adapt use and change meaning and resonance, emphasising how images and their metaphors will continue to shift with us as we reassemble them.