The Last Best Place


‘The Last Best Place
– electronic (video & audio), duration: 6mins 28secs

Description of work:

During 2007 I produced a body of work that represents seven months of living and working in the north west American State of Montana. Montana’s self image is ‘The Last Best Place’ or ‘The Big Sky’. Many ‘traditional’ (non-Native American) inhabitants of the state have held on to, or adopted, an archaic, nostalgic vision of pioneer frontier life. A healthy disrespect for federal law and interference (taken to extreme by the ‘Freemen’ of Justice Township in 1996) is coupled with a stubborn adherence to a traditional cowboy/cowgirl lifestyle, albeit with a brand new Ford pick-up and satellite CMTV. Many of these beliefs in a ‘traditional’ lifestyle have dangerous undercurrents in the extensive white supremacist organisations that exist throughout America. Montana’s neighbour state, Idaho, is home to some of the most powerful Militia groups operating today; a brief search on the Internet will provide a frightening array of choice for prospective membership of these groups. Montana is a very sparsely populated state. There are vast stretches of open road and land where one can live in relative freedom. It is this ideal that people in Montana want to hold on to. There is a sense that the inevitable advance of tourism and ‘outsider settlers’ has begun to fray the stability of rural Montana life.

There is an emotive sadness about the past in Montana. A local bar owner described his hometown as the city where there are ‘angels in the air’. Many people who live in Montana have a romantic view of their State embodied in the magnificent landscape and vast stretches of land. There are numerous ‘ghost towns’ that are a legacy from the rich mining period in the nineteenth century that remain as they were left decades before. It is this perceived romantic view that I inevitably found myself drawn towards.