The Big Game



In this strange and self-ironic re-enactment of history all the cliché props are present from the lion skin on the floor to the rifle propped against the mosquito-netted bed. The background activates our invisible captioning, the narrative of colonialist nostalgia. The impetus in this direction is quickly halted, however, when we look at the other items and the general tone of the portrait. The skin covered cushions, the bedclothes, the teapot and mugs are reproductions of animal skins. Add to this the fact that the huntress seems to be offering us swatches of the same substitute for the real thing, and the meaning of the picture shifts. The first layer of imperial reality is transformed into a nostalgic background, is re-imaged, to counterpoint a modern sales strategy.


In self-parody the image feeds off itself, countermands its own image-making propensities. On a formal level this is not new, but it encourages reflection on the nature of neo-liberal capitalism which attempts to divorce the product from its origins and conditions of production and then to divorce the product from reality and sell an image of it. If the product doesn’t sell, change the image not the product. When it is no longer acceptable to sell the authentic product, sell a substitute using the image from the authentic detached, however, from any negative implications. Clean up the image. Clean up history. Shop till you drop.





In The Big Game the gun and the camera can be linked in another way. Many white hunters used both gun and camera, but not as alternatives. Very often the click of the shutter occurred at the same time as the shot from the gun, succeeded by a formal shot of the trophy. A double trophy and a double ‘memento mori’. What is not recorded by the camera is the widespread appropriation of hunting rights from indigenous peoples on the basis that they had no ‘sporting instinct’ and only killed for ‘love of meat and the lust of killing’. Hunting for food is, of course, pretty unseemly behaviour.