Wednesday, May 31, 2023, 6:30 pm

AVANT TO LIVE! Retrospective Program 2

Sonic Outlaws + Wild Gunman


3117 Sixteenth Street (at Valencia)

San Francisco, CA 94103

pictured above: Sonic Outlaws (1995) by Craig Baldwin

Roxie Theater
Advance tickets here SOLD OUT
Retrospective details here
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Craig Baldwin In Person!

“Our movie is a revolutionary broadside, it's science fiction, it’s an expansion of the human potential!”
— Craig Baldwin as cited by Bill Daniel: This Cannot Be Done: Making Films with Craig Baldwin

ABOUT THE ARTIST: As a filmmaker, Craig Baldwin’s works appropriate footage from pre-existing films, fusing form and content and embodying a radical vision of media culture as a participatory field. Engaging mainstream media as an adversary, using its languages in ironic opposition, Baldwin talks back to corporately produced media and creates inspiring, wildly imaginative works which profoundly challenge the nature of one-way media consumption. Our three-program series includes Baldwin’s classic agitational pseudo-pseudo-doc Tribulation 99; the wide-ranging rock doc diatribe Sonic Outlaws (featuring Negativland); exemplars of Baldwin’s genre busting “collage narrative” features (including Spectres of the Spectrum) plus shorts, excerpts and rarities, all presented by Craig Baldwin in person! FULL SERIES DETAILS HERE.

Baldwin’s media-radical rock doc Sonic Outlaws (1995)—a polemical examination of copyright and “fair use” featuring Negativland in a constellation of culture jammers—screens with Baldwin’s 1978 video game mashup Wild Gunman

SCREENING: Sonic Outlaws (1995); 16mm, color, sound, 87 minutes. Wild Gunman (1978); 16mm, color, sound, 19 minutes. Both works by Craig Baldwin.

Sonic Outlaws: There’s a war going on. Mobilized armies of “geek flesh” are putting new spins on an ancient art practice, and the lawsuits are flying. Whether it’s reverential “homage” or premeditated theft, a growing community of artists believe that anything they can pull out of the muck of media-saturated society is theirs to reassemble and/or regurgitate: “Copyright Infringement Is Your Best Entertainment Value.” Call it plagiarism or “culture jamming,” it’s a practice that can mix equal parts Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, and Casey Kasem and give birth to a monstrous hybrid that you can’t take your eyes or ears off. Go ahead: scream in terror as you vote it into office.

Craig Baldwin’s second feature, Sonic Outlaws (1995), both exemplifies and documents this subject. As the director who brought us the cult classic Tribulation 99 (1991)—a mutated found-footage conspiracy theory meditation that makes the Warren Commission look like an Easter egg hunt—Baldwin has the proper pedigree for such an endeavor. While elements on the cultural fringe surf on media controversy to promote their recombinant products, idiotically paranoid corporations feel threatened and react with overwhelming legal muscle. In general, the little guy gets publicity while the big guy ends up looking like an asshole. Baldwin’s compilation of subjects makes a community of artists who practice continuous appropriation of other people’s work look as if they’re on the cutting edge of originality. By interweaving pirated images (actual pirates in one case) and handheld documentary footage of the artists into a seamless web, Baldwin supports his story by saturating it with the very strategy practiced by his subjects: unrelated sound and image are reborn and implicated in a parade of poetic imagery that substitutes “satellite dish” for “stream of consciousness.” (Chris Chang: “Property is Theft”)

Wild Gunman asks: Which penis-substitute kills you quicker, the gun or the cigarette? Wild Gunman challenges the tropes of masculinity, demonstrating how they all end in vain, if not through cancer, then through bullet wounds. In the depths of my heart I can’t help being convinced that my dear fellow-men, with a few exceptions, are worthless. One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated. The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do. I did not direct my life. I didn’t design it. I never made decisions. Things always came up and made them for me. Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. If freedom is a requisite for human happiness, then all that’s necessary is to provide the illusion of freedom. It is a surprising fact that those who object most violently to the manipulation of behavior nevertheless make the most vigorous effort to manipulate minds. To that end, because of the effects of the Marlboro Man, John Wayne, shootouts, video games, and experiments on cats depicted in this educational triumph, no young lad will ever think of becoming a “typical” man ever again. Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth. One dies as a hero, or as an idiot, which is the same thing. (Scott MacKenzie: The Craig Baldwin Educational Film Catalog)

Meticulously detailed, with contributions from over 50 writers, artists, illustrators and ideologues, AVANT TO LIVE! is the first critical text to examine the artist’s films analytically as a coherent and meaningful body of work and critical artist’s statement while also examining the cultural impact of Baldwin’s Other Cinema curatorial project. For more details, or to buy a copy, click here.

Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live! is a collaborative project of San Francisco Cinematheque and INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media.