Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 7:30pm
William E. Jones's The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography + Craig Baldwin's Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography, William E. Jones, 1998, video, 19 mins
Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America, Craig Baldwin, 1991, 16mm, 48 mins

Tonight’s program brings together two artists who have significantly advanced the practices of cinematic appropriation, moving forward a tradition that stretches from the pioneering efforts of Esfir Shub and Joseph Cornell, through the found-footage works of Bruce Conner and Peter Roehr, to the internet assemblages of our own day. In these two pieces, William E. Jones and Craig Baldwin both excise forgotten fragments of visual culture to contend, in very different ways, with the geopolitical upheavals of the Cold War and its aftermath, taking seriously the aesthetic possibilities contained within otherwise disposable media.

With The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography, Jones attempts to locate the effects of world-historical events in moments of erotic fantasy. His point of departure is the 1990s phenomenon of gay porn tapes shot in former Eastern Bloc nations—titles like Young Russian Innocents and Men of the Balkans—when these newly-minted market economies could offer models at one-tenth the wages of their American counterparts. “The video provides a glimpse of young men responding to the pressures of an unfamiliar world, one in which money, power, and sex are now connected. Handsome, hungry, and defiant, these youths are caught up in a brutal system that sees them as nothing more than cheap labor,” Jones writes. “This video is not about ‘naughty’ transgression or titillation, but about the real pornography of human exploitation.” Americans often understand the decline of communism as driven by a desire for Western freedoms, but in Jones’s video, the scenario is not one of seduction, but coercion.

Crafted over years from Baldwin’s personal archive of junked 16mm prints and other fugitive sources, Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America is described by the artist as “a pseudo pseudo-documentary, obsessively organized into 99 paranoid rants, parlaying every imaginable scrap of ‘found’ footage, re-filmed TV, and industrial sound into a revisionist history of alien intervention in Latin America.” Baldwin’s story smashes together conspiracy theories, Christian eschatology, and the subterfuge of American foreign policy into a mind-bending mock investigation, illustrated by monster-movie battles, cheapo sci-fi effects, and psychotronic graphic interludes. His reimagined half-century begins at the end of World War II, when an extraterrestrial race known as the Quetzals takes up residence in the secret world within our hollow earth, later attacking the United States through proxy agents like Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende. Working off this central narrative, Baldwin concocts a dizzying array of crack-pot scenarios behind incredible-but-true political events—psychic weapons, voodoo curses, and the Bermuda Triangle explain the likes of global warming, the Kennedy assassination, and the invasion of Grenada. Whereas Jones distills his seedy source materials into a minimal essay on capitalism at its most naked, Baldwin creates an explosive admixture that powers a paranoid-critical history through dialectical combustion.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.

The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.