Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lucky Luke is a comic book series that sets in the Old American West. Through caricature the Series accumulates both the image of the old west and the myth it produces. While it is completely unknown to most Americans, it is one of the best selling comic books in Europe. Drawn by the Belgian illustrator Morris and written by the French/Polish Goscinny, Lucky Luke not only plays an essential part in European popular culture – for many Europeans it is the main source of knowledge in their perception of the Old West.
Many of the stories uses actual historic material from the west, however allot of the figures used to play out these narratives, are modulated from what was then (1953 – 1983) contemporary cultural figures, such as Alfred Hitchcock, W.C. Fields (see above) and Jack Palance – just to name a few.
The Series had an awareness not only towards how it touched on its historical subject matter, but also how it was received, and affected its contemporary society. For an example, after the second Marlboro Man died from lung cancer, Lucky Luke’s cigarette was replaced with a straw.

On May 17th 2009 three Albums of the Lucky Luke comic book series will be added to the Library at the Deep End Ranch in California. Providing a take on the old west that the culture itself has largely ignored – this gesture cannot deny its educational nature and the arrogance that inevitably follows such an act – however this is not meant as Christopher Columbus second coming; – Lucky Luke has been introduced to the American marked before – but was for various reasons (most of them very inscrutable) not a success. Further more, even though this gesture carries an actual object, its destination is not monumental. It is not the site for the history of the Old West (one might ask oneself if such a place even exists) – but a site. What qualifies the Deep End Ranch as site for this discussion is not that it physically happens to register within the map of the Old west, it is in the way that it – by using the site as a platform that allows reevaluation of this position – maintains a sensibility towards its own identity.
Still from one of the cartoons made from the Series. The narrative is animated in an exhausted version of the west: The landscape is densely inhabited with an accumulation of its own myth – almost to the point that this becomes a static "landscape within the landscape".

Opening one of these comic books the reader is confronted with the story of how the Old West was founded through European immigration and ideals, but the story is told from a European point of view that - at the time - is influenced by the very result of the myth that it is portraying: Contemporary American life.
In other words this colorful hybrid – in form of a Comic Series - raises the question (and confuses the order) of how identity forms through trans(Atlantic)actions of culture.
However, because of the archival nature of this gesture, this layer is not directly available. By closing the album and putting it on the shelf at the Deep End Ranch, this sensational format must submit to the subtle, latent language of a library. Once again the order of "authenticity" is shuffled, and what in Europe might be the primary reference point to the Old West, is now one version among many.

Installation shot from the Deep End Ranch

Installation shot from the Deep End Ranch

Title card

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