You’ll Never Succeed In Becoming Like Me

Watching too many westerns will rot your brain.

The title of this show, ‘You'll Never Succeed in Becoming Like Me’, is a line from Once Upon A Time In The West, but could be from just about any other Western (they all follow the same rules). They all take place in a world where good testosterone triumphs over evil testosterone, a world where physical endurance and proficiency with a six-shooter are righteous virtues. Of course it’s not all galloping horses and bullet-ridden bad guys, during the calmer moments of The West your average cowboy will be shown whittling under a tree.

Whittling is a pointless act, nothing more than a three-dimensional doodle to be discarded as soon as someone needs to be shot, or rescued. It’s simply a way to occupy idle hands, akin to smoking or biting one’s nails. Yet through it’s inextricable association with The West and cowboys, it becomes imbued with pent up violence. What better or more accessible way could there be for a British artist in 2017 to tap into that raw masculinity? Sure, no cowboy ever cared about the result of their whittling. Sure, no cowboy ever went to Youtube looking for tutorials in order to hone their craft. Sure, no cowboy ever put any whittled wood on a plinth, and expected people to look at it.

But we ain’t cowboys, and never will be. That world has gone, or never truly existed (not with so many ricocheting bullet sound effects, anyway). Why bother brooding, sullenly whittling on a stick achieving nothing but marking the passing of minutes and hours, when there’s a global network of whittlers uploading tutorials to Youtube? That stick could be something. It could be a cute snake or raccoon for your friends to admire. So open your browser, and find someone with a Southern drawl to teach you from their kitchen. You’ll feel like a Real Man as the knife cuts across the grain.

‘I’ll never succeed in becoming like you.’ Williamson acknowledges, ‘But I will whittle the hell out of this bit of wood’