Wednesday, May 31, 2023, 9:00 pm

AVANT TO LIVE! Retrospective Program 3

Spectres of the Spectrum + Mock Up On Mu (excerpts) + Bulletin


3117 Sixteenth Street (at Valencia)

San Francisco, CA 94103

pictured above: Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) by Craig Baldwin

Roxie Theater
Advance tickets here
Retrospective details here
Visit our facebook event page
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.

A progenitor of the “compilation narrative,” Baldwin’s Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) and Mock Up On Mu (2008; excerpts to screen) collage original and found footage to tell apocalyptic sci-fi tales, perform interactive media archeology and envision utopian acts of resistance. Program also to include the 2015 rarity Bulletin

SCREENING: Spectres of the Spectrum (1999); 16mm, color, sound, 92 minutes. Mock Up On Mu (2008); digital video, color, sound, 109 minutes (excerpts to screen). Bulletin (2015); digital video, b&w, sound, 6 minutes. All works by Craig Baldwin.

Spectres of the Spectrum is not a film. It is a no-film. Past and present, documentary and fiction, the “real” and the virtual, are compressed into an intensely disorienting audio-visual barrage-assemblage. Suturing together an extraordinary array of obscure archival footage, interspliced with self-shot film and video, Craig Baldwin bombards us with endlessly proliferating truths, fictions, conspiracies, and psychedelic flights of fantasy, coalescing around alter-nate meta-his-stories of the 20th century American techno-military industrial complex. All of this is somehow condensed into a 90-minute fin-de-millénaire cyberpunk B-movie set in a post-apocalyptic near-future-now-past, which revels in sci-fi cliché, ironic humor, and lo-fi special effects. Spectres attempts to radically reconfigure relationships within the cinematic experience, producing an active, critical, embodied spectator. We experience a dynamic range of sensory, emotional, cognitive, and bodily responses as the film navigates different registers, often at breakneck speed. (Joanna Byrne: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun: BooBoo’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable)

Mock Up On Mu: By turns absorbing, confounding, exhausting and altogether stranger and more rib-ticklingly funny than most fiction, Craig Baldwin’s infelicitously titled and cacophonous provocation, Mock Up On Mu, comes close to defying categorization. Much like Mr. Baldwin’s previous cut-and-paste works […] this new work hits your synapses like a cluster bomb, assailing your tremulous gray matter with a barrage of cinematic fragments (most recycled, some newly shot), miscellaneous rants and ruminations.

Divided into 13 chapters, Mock Up On Mu […] recounts some of the more far-out and apparently true tales involving American inner and outer space travel. The Web site for the movie (othercinema.com/mu.html) contains the coy assertion that it’s “(mostly) true” […]. More to the point, this defensive assertion may be directed at anyone who might take offense at the gently parodic portrait of one of its main characters, L. Ron Hubbard (the filmmaker Damon Packard), whose trippy musings blend in with those of Jack Parsons (Kal Spelletich), a founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; his wife, Marjorie Cameron (Michelle Silva); and some guy named Lockheed Martin (Stoney Burke).

A maximalist, Mr. Baldwin is at once a collector and curator of 20th-century visual culture. Working with the editor[s] Sylvia Schedelbauer [and Bill Daniel], he pulls together a wide range of fiction and nonfiction images, stitching his story from familiar bits and oddball pieces that he’s borrowed from our shared imaginary museum. Everything is grist for his mill[.] (Manohla Dargis: Star Log: Trippy Sci-Fi Mash-Up Alert!)

Bulletin: In Bulletin, Baldwin simultaneously explores the ironies of his source, the elastic character of the moving image and its frame, and the psychic terrors of midcentury advertising. To this last point, Baldwin has disassembled a Bufferin advertisement that depicts a scene from the life of an American nuclear family. The Bufferin advertisement bears frustrations of legacy: in it, a father’s gift to his son, a rifle, is refused, as the pain-racked mother is caught in metaphoric crossfire. As the film begins, this disassembly is already well underway, and through acts of visual and temporal distortion, each building in menace, Baldwin conducts this scene as a forensic examination, repeating shots and emphasizing details in a complex montage that suggests the thinnest of veils separates emotional and physical violence. Once Baldwin’s material trickery reaches a fever pitch, it gives way to a clear view of his source, presented in its root form, unelaborated. (Stephen Broomer: Stationary Targets: Craig Baldwin’s Bulletin)

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.