Shezad Dawood was commissioned by Wysing to make a film to commemorate the opening of our new buildings in 2008. Shez was in-residence at Wysing across 2006 and 2007 producing the new film Feature which, like much of his work, engaged with mythologies, authenticity, multiple authorship and intercultural interpretations.

Click on the image to see behind-the-scenes shots and film stills.

Shezad Dawood

Dawood spent four months in residence at Wysing, making contact with local people and groups to invite them to take part in the film: a jockey, trainer and two thoroughbred racehorses from the nearby town of Newmarket; an all-Chinese football team, currently in the 5th Division; a Western re-enactment group The Outlaws; a local choir The Fairhaven Singer; a soprano from the Royal Danish Opera who sang Wagner's Valkyrie; plus guest appearances by well-known artists and countless local villagers who came in costume to try out for a part in open casting sessions.

Feature was conceived and filmed as a series of performances linked by an overarching narrative of The Battle of Little Big Horn, possibly the most famous war between Native Americans and Federal Government. Scenic backdrops which interface with the landscape have been inserted into a series of mock-historical vignettes interlaced with fictional interludes all featuring a cast of well known artists and musicians alongside local performers. These dislocations aim to challenge the residual idea of authenticity and create a new open-ended text that feeds back into a narrative dynamic - that of the process itself. At the same time the film engages a critical inquiry into the Western as a site for mediation and colonial critique.

A number of Dawood's works to date have played with elements from film history, often restaging historical moments. In Feature he builds on this by recasting Lord Krishna of Hindu mythology as a cowboy alongside playing with the genre of the revisionist Westerns of Altman and Peckinpah and also the zombie films of the 1970s. With a cast of internationally reputed artists including Jimmie Durham (cast as narrator Sioux holyman Sitting Bull) and David Medalla (cast as Chief Crazy Horse), a key aspect of the film's originality lies in Dawood's continued interest in using fellow artists as collaborators and performers as a way to deconstruct identities and mythologies surrounding a particular genre and the relationships between practitioners and audience.

"Feature draws upon my interest in the Western film as a site of continuous reversal - from classic westerns to the revisionist westerns of Little Big Man and Dances with Wolves, together with their complicated legacies which have been further satirised by figures such as Marco Ferreri in Ne Touchez Pas a la Femme Blanche that relocates The Battle of Little Big Horn to the Paris suburbs of the 1970s, or Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill & the Indians." - S.D.

The finished film was screened at the Cambridge Film Festival September 2008 as well as galleries throughout the country, including Tate.

Subsequently a book of the making of Feature was commissioned by BookWorks and published in June 2008.