Print The Legend: The Myth Of The West, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

4.00

Cowboy myths just keep rollin' on

For the Victorians it was the "exotic" East, as the late Edward Said pointed out in Orientalism, which revealed how fiction so often seems preferable to fact, and how we have a need to construct a mythological place on which to project our secret dreams and fantasies.

And so with the Wild West, argues Print the Legend: The myth of the West. That, too, was just as much a construct and the Western a celluloid vision of a prelapsarian playground where men were men and women knew their place. This idealisation, argues the curator, Patricia Bickers, goes back to Bishop Berkeley's 18th-century imperialist musings, when he claimed that, from Europe, "Westward the course of empire takes its way". The visionary American poet Walt Whitman also spoke of America's "manifest destiny", writing "for these states tend inland, and towards the Western sea, and I will also" (though he never travelled further west than the Mississippi.)

The Wild West has continued to exert a powerful influence both as image and metaphor on the American psyche and on Europeans who have never visited the continent, but grew up with cowboys riding across their Sunday-afternoon TVs.

How many of us remember the mythic heroes from our youths such as The Lone Ranger with his sidekick, Tonto, or the strong silent Raw Hide, who just kept those wagons rollin' rollin' rollin'? But how does all this work as an exhibition and, as with so many ideas-led shows, is the theory more interesting than the event?

In John Ford's late Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the editor of the local paper proclaims "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend". It is this line that gives the show its title. Longing and desire meld in Isaac Julien's three-screen projection about two gay cowboys meeting in a cattle market. This draws on the homoerotic backdrop that colours so many Westerns where the "true" relationships – as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – are between men.

Adam Chodzko's photographic diptych also plays with fact and fantasy by placing hoardings describing a north London car park and Flagstaff, Arizona in their opposite locations and Peter Granser's ersatz "cowboys" never look more than their Teutonic, role-playing selves located among neat suburban German streets.

In Gillian Wearing's video we, the viewers, watch Western enthusiasts as they sit drinking and watching themselves acting a "shoot out" in the Hayward Gallery.

The white screen sited on waste ground opposite the gallery appears to be a blank canvas – on to which we might project anything – until the sun goes down over Edinburgh and an image of John Wayne comes up. Slowed to one frame every 23 minutes and running 24 hours a day, the length of Douglas Gordon's work corresponds in real time to the five-year search that is the subject of John Ford's classic 1956 western The Searchers. Images of longing weave through other works, such as Salla Tykka's adolescent rite of passage choreographed to the swelling score of Ennio Morricone's music from Once Upon a Time in the West, while Mike Nelson's underground scarlet cavern of desire, hidden like something illicit in the basement, references Clint Eastwood "painting the town red" in High Plains Drifter.

Simon Patterson's hand-painted installation that reflects shades of Kodak grey takes its structure from the shoot-out in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but unless you knew that it wouldn't make a lot of sense; Cornelia Parker's Embryo Firearms: Colt 45 guns in the earliest stages of production, is redolent of the West's violent past.

So does the show work? Well such heavy conceptual underpinnings are always tricky, but it does emphasise the myth of the American West as a land fit for heroes, a myth that seems to be as potent and as politically and culturally charged today as ever.

To 4 May (0131-225 2383)

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower