The Last Word in Lonesome is Me
The Last Word In Lonesome is Me. 3-Channel Installation. 16 B&W Videos. DV. 2002-05
Home. It was always about home. It was about the family and the veneer of simple country life. Then there was another war. And when they came home, it wasn't back to their rural home. They returned to the city. And then it wasn’t about home anymore; it was about the city and about being detached, about being alone.
This is the basic premise behind The Last Word in Lonesome is Me. Set up as a three channel video projection that shifts perspectives and narrative chronology, this project analyses the fallout of country music’s move from the country to the city.
Using the soundtrack of Eddie Arnold’s, The Last Word in Lonesome is Me, Faron Young’s I Guess I had too Much to Dream Last Night and his cover of Hello Walls, and Jimmy Reeves, Make the World Go Away, these videos investigate this geographic and the psychological move cross country. Within all the videos, the viewer is confronted with contrasting images of rural and urban life. The images play off one another: suburban furniture is accompanied by black eyes and beefsteaks, birthday cakes contrast leaky ceilings and lonely highways, and their soundtracks mimic the fragmented persona of the lonesome, detached traveler.
This project initially grew out of my disdain for North American country music. Whether it was New Country, old time crooners, or sugary love ballads, I found it insipid and repetitious.
This extreme reaction seemed worth investigating.
I began by immersing myself into country music's various forms. I followed its history and its relation to other popular music: from traditional ballads to Old-Timey music, from Bluegrass to Opryland, and from Hee Haw to the highly polished "hat acts" of the 1990s. And like all forms of genre music, there is repetition, and sometimes it is tedious, biased and reactionary, but there are also several facets of its production and narrative that intrigued me. These included themes of being lost, detached and melancholy, the absurd wish to return both physically and metaphorically home, and the social implications of industry, post-war capitalism, and urban development on both the people who create this music and their listeners who consume it.