Berlin-based artist Julian Rosefeldt (b.1965) has made a name for himself with lavishly produced, moving image multi-screen installations. American Night is one of his most complex works to date - a five channel film installation. In it he uses the stylistic devices of the Western genre, to deconstruct the myth of the founding of America and relate it to the ambitions of recent US foreign policy.
American Night (2009) is a homage to the medium of film and reflects on the construction of fictional narratives using cinematographic and iconographic references. Shot on a Sergio Leone film set in southern Spain and on the Canary Islands on 16mm film transferred onto HD, it uses the stylistic devices of the Western genre to take on political issues.
The installation offers a complex, simultaneous interweaving of several dimensions of reality: for example, one of the screens shows five cowboys gathered around a camp fire, musing on the American conception of freedom and speaking a language entirely made out of quotations from film, US politicians' speeches and rap music lyrics. On another screen, viewers see a puppet show performed in a saloon with George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the protagonists, while, in reference to a certain US foreign policy, another scene shows a helicopter landing and armed US troops rushing out to occupy a deserted Western town.
As in François Truffaut's famous film La Nuit Américaine, Rosefeldt's film installation is an homage to the process of filmmaking itself. The title 'American Night' refers to a filming technique that allows the shooting of night scenes during the daytime (often used in Westerns). Rosefeldt alludes on the one hand to that filming technique (which he also uses here) and on the other, metaphorically to 'the approaching end of the American empire'.
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