Laura Belik on the Arts + Design Wednesdays @ BAMPFA | Experiment and Exploration talk with Craig Baldwin on January 24, 2018.
Craig Baldwin’s pace and excitement as a presenter directly reflects on his professional production. Media artist, filmmaker, instigator, provocateur… For the past thirty years Baldwin’s work is a great example of San Francisco’s alternative arts community. Known as an experimental filmmaker, Baldwin is also the main person behind the “Other Cinema”, an independent art house/ movie theater that works as a venue for counter-culture film and events located at Mission District, promoting and supporting alternative forms of film-making. The Other Cinema goes beyond a space for screening, it also promotes different activities such as an online Zine that works as a film journal; a digital label, called the Other Cinema Digital (OCD); and an archive of titles and works.
Baldwin reminds the audience how his space has always been a contested one, and that very few similar venues still survive in the city, most of them concentrated in the Mission District as well. When the project started, there was a need to think about how to make the space viable, thus, the solution was to think about it as a studio that Baldwin could both live and work in, in order for it to continue existing. “We don’t do commercial art”, he reiterated. That was where the challenge and excitement came from. Baldwin says there is a very large alternative art community in the Bay Area and it all started because of radical free thinking. “We had a fertile ground here. We have smaller alternative spaces that work as anti-institution ones, such as smaller theaters. We were a rebellious youth. Here we have the free-speech movement. That was something special happening in the Bay Area”, Baldwin justifies how these kinds of alternative spaces came into being in SF, as an alternative to New York in the East Coast, for example.
The Other Cinema’s production has a large commitment not only to the content of the projects, but to their presentation. Baldwin explains how his work was highly influenced by Guy Debord and the Situationists International group, where psychogeography would dictate his view and interpretation of the landscape. The group’s idea of Détournement led to what Baldwin’s calls “his own manifesto”, which is the main work the Other Cinema does: rescuing what he calls “orphan” films, discarded materials or films that are now open-sourced, and creating new productions on top of them through collages and superimpositions. “We reuse the films, make them into something else, make a detour, repurpose-it.”, Baldwin explains.
But the collages don’t stop on the screen. As Baldwin presented, the Other Cinema also incentivizes those who attempt using live AV into their experimental works, for example. Although the endeavor to maintain those experimental spaces for creative works is a continuous challenge, Baldwin also inspires us and demonstrates how important it is to keep these productions alive – and always moving forward. Expanding cinema can mean a great set of different productions, on and off of the screen.
Lauren Belik (PhD Student, Architecture) reviewed the January 24, 2018 talk with Craig Baldwin, as part of the Spring 2018 Arts + Design Wednesdays @ BAMPFA series. To learn more about the series, see below:
Arts + Design Wednesdays @ BAMPFA: Experiment and Exploration. This series explores the exciting world of the Bay Area’s alternative, underground, and experimental media arts communities and the ways they have transformed contemporary art and media culture. Led by UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Film and Media Jeffrey Skoller, the series engages prominent media artists, curators, and critics to explore the idea of experimentalism in art as a risk-taking approach to creative expression and as a philosophical position that emphasizes art as process and invention over product and professional mastery.
Arts + Design Wednesdays @ BAMPFA is organized and sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Arts + Design Initiative in partnership with Big Ideas courses. In-kind support is provided by BAMPFA. Learn more here.