Deadly charm of snakes
26.11.20 – 30.01.21
Contrary to previous works, with this movie Angelika Markul wants to bear witness to the actual event. It is the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup in 2020 and a contest for Miss Rattlesnake Charmer Pageant’s title. The contest winner is expected to participate in crucial Roundup activities like killing a rattlesnake, skinning it, and supposedly eating the meat. She becomes the queen of the massacre. The argument for it is pretty practical: “The Roundup is a great benefit to the entire area and is needed to control the snakes’ population.” The artist creates a multivalent image aimed to raise questions on the nature of human actions.
Avoiding mere reporting, she uses her artistic technique to develop a certain kind of anthropology. She juxtaposes images of an oil pump, Sweetwater’s degraded cityscape, the beauty contestants, and the rattlesnakes handled, milked, butchered, and skinned in the Roundup. Scrutinizing human behavior, she does not impose any simplistic meaning of it. However, she provides some hints for interpretation that can at least be political or mythological. The former is connected with revealing the violence crucial to the very existence of human societies. The movie presents it in its residual form as abuse of nature. Furthermore, it implies that this mechanism is essential for the outburst of violence in the Trump era. The latter interpretation is actually suggested by the image of Miss Snake Charmer holding a snake’s decapitated and skinned body. The image as repugnant as powerful seems to echo the Minoan Snake Goddess figurine (about 1600 BC). It implies unleashing the women’s ancient power that has been repressed by ages.
However, the artist does not impose any interpretation rather challenging viewers with images of beauty and violence strictly interwoven.
– Text by Jarosław Lubiak