Artforum, 1990

Cindy Bernard, Ask the Dust: The Searchers (1956/1989)

Artforum, 1990

December 7, 1990 Press / Publications 0

Bernard’s strategy entails a two-way deconstruction. By draining the original film’s mise-en-scéne of all narrative and semiotic connections, Bernard familiarizes the filmic through reprivileging the landscape as a “neutral” site. But landscape isn’t a neutral site; it’s a constructed representation. We read into it all sorts of mediated, cultural and ideological connotations, reflecting various frames of historical discourse as well as those of art and popular culture. Thus Bernard’s additional filmic parameters act as a paradigm for this tendency to mythify and historicize. The Western mesa landscape is not only a symbol of the wilderness as a frontier of 19th century migration, it is also a signifier of the John Ford Western…

…Bernard moves beyond stating the semiotically obvious by tying each film to a slippery political context that undermines simple signifier-to-signified reference. Thus The Searchers is contextualized through the

Cindy Bernard, Ask the Dust: Cheyenne Autumn (1964/1990)

Cindy Bernard, Ask the Dust: Cheyenne Autumn (1964/1990)

1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision that declared “separate but equal” to be inherently unequal and took the first step on the road to school desegregation. Thus Ford’s narration of the rescue of a white girl from the defiling Comanche and her restoration to the law of white society becomes an allegory for white racism against blacks. Significantly, Monument Valley is also the image Bernard uses for Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn, 1964, which may be seen as the director’s answer to his critics on the issue of his own racism…. – Colin Gardner

Gardner, Colin, Cindy Bernard – Richard Kuhlenschmidt, December/January 1990

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