Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leslie Thornton: Tuned Always to a Shifting Ground


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Peggy and Fred in Hell (1984-2008), Leslie Thornton’s major work, is a serial epic akin to the works of Craig Baldwin and Adam Curtis in its ravenous appropriation of disparate archival footage, radical use of diverse genre forms and embodiment of media history. Variously documenting and dramatizing the lives of two children adrift in a post-apocalyptic, yet media saturated, wasteland, Peggy and Fred… is equal parts ethnography, science fiction and horror film. Issued episodically and long considered to be perpetually “incomplete,” The Expiration marks the approach of its unexpected conclusion: “I would say it has been a quest which began to close down after 9/11, when the pretense of the work’s ‘future tense’ (its undefined apocalypse) dissolved into a more disturbing present and then even a past. Peggy and Fred… was set in the detritus of the Cold War. In the last few episodes, the serial project finds its narrative arc, ending on a note strangely optimistic, though post-human.” Thornton will end the event with a reading of text from The Eradication, the final episode in progress of Peggy and Fred in Hell.