Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America
O No Coronado!
Born in Oakland and raised in Sacramento, California, Craig Baldwin attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, University of California at Davis, and San Francisco State University (M.A., 1986). In the Department of Cinema there he studied under Bruce Conner and became increasingly drawn to collage film form. His interest in recontextualization of found imagery led him to the theories of the Situationist International and to various practices of copy-art, mail art, 'zines, altered billboards, and other creative interventions beyond the fringe of the traditional fine-arts curriculum.His desire to liquidate the formal distinctions between "popular" and "fine" art, "public" and "private" imagery, and "political" and "aesthetic" categories through a proliferation of discursive modes expressed itself in several photo-essay, video, and Super 8mm projects previous to his first 16mm production, Wild Gunman (20 mins., 1978). This dense montage of cowboy iconography, advertising campaigns, and geo-political conflicts featured playful optical printing of a (penny-arcade) motion picture amusement. Baldwin's audio-visual argument against imperialist ideology was further developed in RocketKitKongoKit (30 mins, 1986), which utilized several narrative voices in an accelerating cinematic broadside. His next film, Tribulation 99 (48 mins., 1991), unspooled a satiric psycho-political rant on millenarianism, environmental apocalypse, and CIA covert action in Latin America, with flying-saucer simulations and the hypnotic music of Yma Sumac. A picture-book version of the work was published by Ediciones La Calavera (N.Y.C.). The S.F. Bay Guardian bestowed their annual Goldie Award on Baldwin in 1991. His last film, O No Coronado! (40 mins., 1992), intercuts live-action Conquistador vignettes with farcical found footage, delirious video-to-film FX, and a time-warped musical mix in a black-comic critique of both colonialism and the conventions of docu-drama historiography. The S.F. Foundation recognized the effort with the 1992 James D. Phelan Award in Film Art.
Mr. Baldwin currently serves as an independent programmer for various arts-presenting organizations in San Francisco, while teaching part-time. His latest production, Sonic Outlaws, is an experimental documentary on Fair Use, "culture-jamming," and electronic folk culture, exploring the legal, political, and artistic implications of the audio-collage of Negativland, John Oswald, and the Tape-beatles.
(1978), 16mm, color/sound, 20 mins.
Mobilizing wildly diverse found-footage fragments, obsessive optical printing, and a dense "musique concrete" soundtrack, a maniac montage of pop-cultural amusements, cowboy iconography, and advertising imagery is re-contextualized within the contemporary geopolitical crisis in a scathing critique of U.S. cultural and political imperialism.
(1986), 16mm film, color/sound, 30 mins.
This kaleidoscopic, amphetamine-paced tour de force uses a barrage of found-footage images and rapid-fire narration to trace a history of Zaire since its independence in 1960. The CIA, German munitions manufacturers, and American popular culture are all indicted in this comic critique of neo-colonialism.
Centering on President Mobutu's lease of 1/0 of the country's total land area to a West German rocket firm, the film explores both the explicit and implicit historical contradictions that this astonishing arrangement poses and is posed by. With sources of imagery ranging from corporate advertising through 50's instructional films to Tarzan flicks, and musical components oscillating between aboriginal sounds and contemporary electronic compositions, a critical irony is established between the several voice-over discourses and an energetic montage of "found" visuals. Self-reflexively ordered like a plastic model kit, the film perhaps proposes another, more imaginative model of historiography.
(1992) 16mm film, color/sound, 40 mins.
Nao Bustamante, Matthew Day and Gina Pacaldo star in Baldwin's aggressively reconstructed Conquistador chronicle. Baldwin collages the black-comic restaging of the 1540 European invasion of those lands now known as the American Southwest with wildly diverse "found" imagery, video-to-film FX, and a time-warped musical mix, to critique not only the genocidal Spanish soldiers-of-fortune but also documentary conventions of historical representation. Animated graphics, collateral material and multiple voices interpenetrate the epic collage, conjugating a delirious, open-ended historiography that updates issues of imperialism, tourism, treaty rights and environmental protection from the 16th century to the present, and beyond.
(1995) 16mm film, color/sound, 80 mins.
Sonic Outlaws is an energized discourse on contemporary controversies concerning copyright infringement, "fair use," and culture-jamming. Stemming from an investigation into the infamous Negativland-U2 suit, this dense montage of interview, music, and stock footage spirals out into the similarly inspired activities of John Oswald, the Tape-beatles, the Emergency Broadcast Network, the Barbie Liberation Organization, the Situationists, and a multitude of others now working with "found" sound. Practices of phone-pranking, billboard alteration, media-hoaxing, and the digitalization of intellectual property, seen in light of the law in a period of rapid artistic and technological change, foreground emerging tensions between imagination, authorship, autonomy, and the marketplace.
Baldwin's project itself morphs from a compilation doc into a veritable collage, likewise problematizing relations between "cover versions," homage, pastiche, parody, and criticism. All the while it suggests methods of creative resistance -- and perhaps the hope of an "electronic folk culture" -- in the midst of an all-consuming electronic environment under increasing corporate control.
Note: Also check out the Sonic Outlaws web site!