Re: collage film history—baldwin/pastiche

From: email suppressed
Date: Wed Jul 01 2009 - 12:16:02 PDT

To me, the word "pastiche" has derogatory connotations, suggesting randomness or imitation. To me Craig Baldwin's films are neither, although to call them overstuffed or maximalist would be completely fair, IMO.

To complicate the discussion somewhat, Baldwin has long been an advocate for a genre of filmmaking he describes as the "collage essay." It's a very complicated, very elaborate term, and anyone seriously researching this topic should consult the myriad interviews he has given over the years for a detailed elaboration. Speaking as someone who has actually worked in varying capacities on many of his films, the collage aspect of his aethetics accepts virtually *everything* the world has to offer (or, rather, whatever he can get his hands on). This includes not just "found footage" material (i.e. strips of film) but video material, video games, still graphic material (akin to xerox/photocopy art), text, documentary material and footage created "new" for the work (e.g. narrative bits and interviews). This collage also includes sound material which also comes from any and all sources——other films, radio, cassette tapes, answering machine tapes, scanned
 cellphones, LPs, etc etc etc. (I believe a piece of audio in WILD GUNMAN was recorded directly to cassette from a "hacked" drive-in movie theatre speaker.) One thing he said once was (to paraphrase), "You just gotta get it all in the same shape [i.e. 16mm film and mag sound]——then you can do anything you want with it."

This is a much expanded view of collage——it is a worldview that *everything* out there is fair game for inclusion in a work. It's quite expansive.

To continue...
the "essay" part of this genre describes a specific film form that——like a traditional written essay——presents a complex idea more or less clearly and has a specific point of view and which, preferably, engages directly with the world of ideas by dialoging with media on its own terms. This latter point is an important distinction of the "collage essay" film genre——that the work attempts to enter the circulating world of media in some way and to engage it on its own terms (or through pranksterish irony or similar). SONIC OUTLAWS is a clear example of this form but the documentary portions of SPECTRES OF THE SPECTRUM are as well (also is TRIBULATION 99, in an inverted way). An influential non-filmmaker figures to this aesthetic would be John Heartfield who created stunning graphic collages which were direct political critques as well as being, as I said, stunning works of art (compare these to, for example, the more psychologically-oriented
 collages of Max Ernst——and this is not intended to be derogatory to Ernst).

Other examples of work which may by at least partially described by this appellation include works by Chris Marker, Harun Farocki, Travis Wilkerson, Sam Green (thinking of RAINBOW MAN), Marlon Riggs, Greta Snider, Mike Hoolboom (some films), et. al. Obviously the definitions of the genre are fluid but anyone seriously considering a history of the "collage film" should take this line of thinking under consideration. It's notable that central to the definition of this genre is that these films make (to varying degrees) specific articulable verbal meditations on issues (often political) or elaborate points of view in ways that, for example, the works of Cornell do not generally do not***. Strangely(?) you see films like this around quite a bit in mainstream media, for example Ken Burns, TV history docs, (although, duh, these works do not generally engage the world of politics or media in dynamic or provocative ways). And Frank Capra's WHY WE FIGHT series is
 a grandfathers to the genre.

***(and to clarify my point, I do not think that this refusal to be concrete is a "flaw" in Cornell's filmmaking———quite the opposite in fact...)

Steve Polta

--- On Tue, 6/30/09, Francisco Torres <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: Francisco Torres <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: collage film history
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 12:05 PM
> Is Baldwin's work pastiche?
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.


For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.