Cowboys and Vikings Project

Erica Mott’s Cowboys and Vikings Project is a trilogy of interdisciplinary performances examining masculinity through the archetypal lense of the Cowboy and the Viking. Each performance features four male dancers, a musical score by Ryan Ingebritsen, video by Clint Wilson and multiple objects.

These performances employ humor, tenderness and arresting visuals to play between and with the impact of these outlaw heroes on contemporary environment, psychology and economy. Flexible in their presentation and ability to be site-specific, the Cowboys and Vikings trilogy casts audience members as active participants and witnesses in environments of the performance. The mundane is transformed into the magical in visually and aurally arresting ways, such as:

  • Harmonicas bridled to the mouths of the dancers capture the wind across the vast high desert, while charting the breath and energy of the dancers’ exertions.
  • Eight-foot diameter weather balloons allude to vast skies of the frontier and, with helium, provide the tug and unpredictability of cattle being roped.

While in residency at NES Artist Center in Skagastrond, Iceland, home to Iceland’s self proclaimed ‘country western king’, Erica began creating a series of landscape performances called the Cowboys and Vikings Project, inspired by historical research on westward expansion in American and Viking conquest in Iceland as well as interviews with contemporary re-enactors of these histories.

Mott’s first performance of the trilogy Five Gaits, Four Walls, Fourteen Knots is based on both historical and Hollywood portrayal of the cowboy, creating a sweeping landscape of maverick abandon, aggressive territoriality, and lonely constriction.

The second performance in the trilogy Wasteland, Water, Words features a collaboration with Icelandic metal band Celestine and particularly focuses on viking and cowboy archetypal behaviour’s impact on the 2008 economic collapses in the US and Iceland.

The third and final performance in the trilogy will be finished in 2015.

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