Pictured above: Wild Gunman (1978) by Craig Baldwin
The San Francisco Art Book Fair (SFABF) is a free annual multi-day exhibition and celebration of printed material from independent publishers, artists, designers, collectors and enthusiasts from around the world. Presented at Minnesota Street Project, SFABF is open July 14–16 with a preview the evening of July 13. The fair places the unique history and perspectives of the Bay Area in conversation with national and international publishing communities. Free and open to the public, SFABF features artists’ books, art catalogs, monographs, periodicals, zines, printed ephemera and artists’ multiples. Throughout the weekend, visitors to the fair are welcome to experience a diverse range of talks, performances, book launches, special projects, exhibitions and signings across the Project’s contemporary art campus, as well as select off-site projects and events.
Returning to SFABF for the first time since 2019, San Francisco Cinematheque joins Canyon Cinema at SFABF to present an array of collectible publications (for perusal and purchase), including, of course, Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live!; back issues of Cinematograph, Cinematheque’s occasional journal; vintage and recent issues of the Canyon Cinema News (and other Canyon Cinema publications); rare artist publications; ’zines; program note compendia; limited edition monographs; selections from Cinematheque’s online bookstore and more.
Please visit us at SFABF Table EO4!
In addition (and at no extra charge!), Cinematheque and Canyon will present…
The End is Near: Five Films by Craig Baldwin
[presented in the SFABF Media Room]
Clocking in at 508 pages, Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live!, published 2023 by San Francisco Cinematheque and INCITE Journal of Experimental Media, documents the life and work of Bay Area underground legend Craig Baldwin. 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.
On the occasion of SFABF 2023, Cinematheque, INCITE and Canyon Cinema present The End is Near: Six Films by Craig Baldwin, including classic films, rarities and an astonishing re-discovered lost work by the underground legend. All films to screen in their entirety on a 180-minute loop for the duration of SFABF (excepting preview night July 13) in SFABF’s Media Room.
SCREENING: Stolen Movie (1976); Super-8mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 9 minutes. Bulletin (2015); digital video, b&w, sound, 6 minutes. Wild Gunman (1978); 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 19 minutes. Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991); 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 48 minutes. Sonic Outlaws (1995); 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 87 minutes. All films by Craig Baldwin.
Stolen Movie (1976): Stolen Movie was filmed in the spring of 1976. San Francisco was an infinitely wilder and more ragged city back then. The town had been shaken by the 1960s, the sexual revolution, and the economic crises of the early 70s. Punk was just about to explode, and AIDS was still around the corner. Another San Francisco legend and OG Rebecca Solnit has written about the city at that time, “it was clear we were living at the end of something—of modernism, of the American dream, of the industrial economy, of a certain kind of urbanism… Ruin was everywhere, for cities had been abandoned by the rich, by politics, by a vision of the future.” It was in this context that Craig was a 24-year-old film student at San Francisco State University, working nights at a porn cinema on Taylor Street called the Art Theater 1 & 2. (Sam Green: Don’t Make Such a Big Deal About Stolen Movie!)
Bulletin (2015): 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).
Wild Gunman (1978) 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)
Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991) Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99 is one of the most complex North American found footage films produced in recent decades, and one that functions as a limit case of the experimental found footage film’s relation to history. […] A committed leftist satire directed at American foreign policy and media culture, […] Tribulation 99 uses an astonishingly heterogeneous collection of images. Composed entirely of found footage (with a few rephotographed still images and documents), the film culls its images both from ostensibly legitimate institutional sources of knowledge production (e.g., government documentaries and documents, newsreels, instructional and science films) and from unofficial sources not typically accorded legitimate status (e.g., B movies, science fiction, exploitation films, propaganda, advertising). At 48 minutes, and with its extremely rapid montage […], Tribulation 99 is extraordinary in its density and length. (Micheal Zryd: Found Footage Filmas Discursive Metahistory: Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99)
Bulletin (2015): 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). Note the Bulletin will screen twice in the program sequence.
Sonic Outlaws (1995): 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, both exemplifies and documents this subject. As the director who brought us the cult classic Tribulation 99—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”)
All quotes excerpted from Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live!