The Santo Project

A collaborative collection of video & performance works

“The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

     ― Gaylord Nelson

The Santo Project is a body of artworks and film by French-American artist Monte Laster, in collaboration with the non-profits FACE France and FACE USA, co-founded in 2001 and 2015 respectively.

The Santo Project is a artwork connecting the two communities of Santo, Texas and Cramoisy, France. This work is the suite of Laster's work for the 2015 edition of the Soluna International Festival For Music and Contemporary Art, organised annually by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. For his work "Destinations, in Five Movements" Laster also collaborated with the Dallas Museum of Art, Oral Fixation and Booker T. Washington High School.`

 

The Santo Project questions the the human capacity for altruism in its most extreme form, the sacrificing of one's life to save unknown beneficiaries.

Darwin's theories of evolution included a very seldom spoken about element which is the necessity of cooperation in the survival of a species. He notably researched the example of the squealer monkey and the fact that one member of the pack voluntarily puts his own life in danger by screaming out to warn the others.

 

Laster has worked many years on the question of mythological identities and the dehumanising effects caused by extreme labelling whether it be of the villain or the hero. In this work, Laster looks at how one gives back the humanity to an individual or collective which has become labelled as hero.

When searching for the means through which this re-humanisation of the hero figure could be implicated, the decision was made to concentrate on Jerome Zeirlien at the age of nine. The imagery concentrated on what life could have been for a boy growing up in the immense Texas countryside in the 1920-30s.

In the first phase of this video, we see the central character, exemplified through Everette Riley Jordan, on his family ranch outside Santo, Texas. He in his very simple and natural persona, exemplifies the innocence, curiosity and full of hope and dreams that we all experienced in our early years of life.

In the second phase, the character suddenly appears in a dreamlike state in an unknown forest. He then begins his lost adventure of searching for the meaning of this strange experience as he appears in places that move him closer and closer to the centre of present day Paris.

The entire filming process was completed in 2019. Images were shot in Santo and Patillo, Texas in the spring and summer and in Cramoisy, La Courneuve, Saint Denis and Paris, France in the Fall.

The remaining post production work is in the fundraising process and a short trailer for the video has been produced. 

2nd Lt. Jerome Zierlein

On the 25th of August, 1944, while Paris was celebrating its Liberation, 23 pilots of P38 "Lightning", belonging to the 428th and 429th Squadron of the 474th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, took off from their base in Neuilly-la-Foret (Calvados). 

 

Their mission: to attack German airfields in the area of Laon andReims.

Intercepted above the Oise department by a force of thirty German fighters Messerschmitt-109 and Focke-Wulf-190 of JG76 and JG26 in the triangle Creil-Clermont-Beauvais, a dogfight of a period of twenty minutes ensued. In spite of their numerical superiority many German fighters were lost.

For the 474th Fighter Group, eleven P-38 "Lightning" were shot down during this Friday 25th August mission which become, with a loss rate of around 50%, Black Friday.

Among these pilots, seven managed to get out of their aircraft. 2nd Lts Capron,Jarvis and Leahy were collected and hidden by the population. 2nd Lt. Spiker andKoch and 1st Lt. Patterson and Austin were captured after landing by parachute.These two managed to escape afterwards. Capt Holcomb, 1st Lt Stone, 2nd Lts.Packard and Zierlein were killed.

According to witnesses, in order to avoid crashing into the village of Cramoisy 2ndLt. Zierlein managed to straighten out his powerless aircraft before baling out. Being at too low an altitude, his parachute did not have time to open and the body of the young 23-year old Texan pilot was found near the Bois de la Garenne, not far from the place where his plane crashed

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