Craig Baldwin — Reel Mutha Fo’Ya by Gerry Fialka
Craig Baldwin — Reel Mutha Fo’Ya by Gerry Fialka
Having studied the hidden psychic effects of cinema for over half its existence, I can truly declare that Craig Baldwin is one of the best filmmakers ever. The 2023 book CRAIG BALDWIN: AVANT TO LIVE corroborates my proclamation. I contributed the essay “Craig Baldwin’s Touch: Is It Love or Confusion? Or Glorious Not Knowing?” to this over 500 page tome.
The May 30 book launch event at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco was a blessed bash and tribute to Baldwin’s sense of community. Kick out the jams, mutharuckus. Righteous rascality! I was honored to be one of the few speakers. Thanks to Mike Sakamoto of https://gerryswake.com/ for filming me. Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcZOv7YkV4
This is the complete unedited version of my presentation:
Let’s give Steve and Brett a standing ovation, thank you.
Craig Baldwin’s Touch: Is It Love or Confusion? Or Glorious Not Knowing? by Gerry Fialka
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” — Dr. SeUSs
Craig unbewilders: centers without margins, museums without walls, embraces without handcuffs. Circling the squares? Navigating friendships, he does not so much throw us life preservers, but teaches us how to sail with critical thinking pranks.
When asked, “What is your favorite form of information?” Craig yelps “Human touch.” Is that like McLuhan’s “TV is tactile”? Or Chuck Klosterman’s “The realistic depiction of emotional confusion”? Or what? The title of my first published interview (Flipside magazine April1996) is his mantra “Create Something Unexpected.” Follow his artery and write your script for a Baldwin Roast. There are no sacred cows. What totems have we built? What taboos hold us in awe? How do we helm the resonating interval?
Let us inventory:
*Play at joking.
*Conspire — to breathe together.
*Practice alchemical activism.
*Neurocurate beyond avant-garde algorithms. Empathy, not storytelling.
*Construct situations that probe the perceptual bias of our own native languages.
*Harness ignorance. Turn rejections into redirections. Like a nervous breakthrough and midlife climax?
*Oil the doors of perception with what James Joyce called in Finnegans Wake “alcoherence” and “intaxication.”
*Mock mesmerizing metaphors.
*Create a chaotic cacophony of coding.
*Social engineer human behavior and po-mo-deconstruct William Burrough’s Naked Lunch and Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle.
*Alexander Trocchize transgression and follow your childlike instincts ala Dziga Vertov and Chris Marker.
*Demand the deluge of detritus detournement into morphed “retournement.”
*Drown in Frank Capra’s “bad conscience.”
*Hypnotize yourself with “motion smoothing” and “intellectual interpolations.” Uncanny. More reel than reality.
*Harbor media fallout.
*Circle the squares.
*”Every day is a birthday” — CB
*Free people with bread and chimchim cher-ee circus cinema.
*Dodge digital dementia.
*In Otherness, discover human consciousness itself.
*Follow CB — reboot & de-privatize 5G as SeaBe Tactility.
*Vivify Pixelvision, as Craig has, who called it “Lo-Fi Hi-Jinx Electronic Folk Art” and supported us for 3 decades and still going strong. I am grateful.
*Cruise through the “Jujitsu” boundaries. Craig’s demake of Science in Action jujitsu conjures the root of this 1875 Japanese word meaning ju=softness, gentleness and jutsu meaning art and science.
When Craig’s OtherZine published the essay Wannabe Jujitsu by me and Will Nediger, to our surprise, he responded, “The wannabe list is a wonderful exercise in film criticism and philosophy.” It was a freaking joke, begging for conversation. Whaaa? In it, we proclaimed, “Baldwin is a Bruce Conner & Jean-Luc Godard as CovertAction Information Bulletin wanna be.”
Can anyone with telepathic powers raise my hand and name a few Craig Baldwin wannabes?
“I can no longer think what I want to think, my thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” — George Duchamel, Scenes de la vie future (1930). This quote was made famous by Walter Benjamin in his 1936 essay “Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.”
Go Baldwinnin’ and fake right, then go write, then go left? Go subliminal? Camouflage the FUNKtion of the “meaning” like a sizzle steak carried by the writer to distract the house-dog of the mind so that it works. Whaaa? Then suddenly another level of consciousness yells, “Work!” like Maynard G. Krebs. “Dobie Gillis” Baldwin stimulates needs to challenge the system, connect people, and make films that uck your shit up up. Rearrange old shit into a brand-new synthesis?
Flip commodity cineMA. Gestalt the riches of the present. Be Hear Now! As Craig said, “It’s about engaging with the present moment. . . There’s no secret.” Is the role of the artist is to hide the secret and reveal it at the same time?
Lt. Colonel Baldwin, USAF ret., lives in the present and destinks histories of the future (a rewording of Wyndham Lewis: “Artists are engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because they are the only people who live in the present.”).
Tribulation 99 still hits like a tsunami of uber bricolage poppy fueled over loads of pseudo-pseudo essays motivating MamaFeastas = Manifestos. (“mamafesta” is the Joycean word for “manifesto”) Maybe M.O.M. evokes “Masochism Of Margins.” Craig said, “Masochism of the margins, you gotta take a lot of pain. If you were just totally averse to pain you wouldn’t be in this part of the art world. But there’s a frisson with the tension and the deprivation — there’s a certain kind of excitement that comes out of it, living marginally.”
Crucible Bruce Conner talked about creating stuff he had not seen already. Outing the inner dialogue. Is visualizing manifestation? Dangerous risks are healthy. It takes courage. Craig continues, “To do something that’s never been done — Other! — something new or alternative, then it becomes dangerous! And you have to suffer because of it. That’s the masochism of the margins.” Make the invisible visible with new eyes?
One of Conner’s favorite films, Scott Coleman Miller’s Uso Justo, contains a line about Baldwin’s pants. Is this a reference to his trousers or ?. The word “pant” as a verb means “be in distress.”
Embrace contradictions like “I know good music when I don’t hear it” — Dougo of Venice. This begs for tumultuously tweaking experimentation by airing two quotes that evoke Bald’s WIN: “Is television real?” — Korla Pandit and “I’m not black, but there’s a whole lotta times I wish I could say I’m not white.” — Frank Zappa.
Craig set the sails for “live cinema” as more than elaborate power point plays. We can reinvent theater, the first human invention. He had direct mojo on the creation of my essay “Live Cinema As Live Cinema.” Note that the first word “live” is a verb, and the second usage of “live” is an adjective.
“Art should offer an opportunity to recognize our common humanity and vulnerability.” — Charlie Kaufman . . . LA psychogeography redistributes San Flaneur ’cause Hollywoody if we couldy.
Avoid “shoulds”? The word “commodity” comes from the Latin word meaning adaptation. Could it be adaptation, or acceptance, or sweet tolerance or what?
Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelström” illustrates Craig’s reaction to this quote I asked him about year ago: “Film as an art form has been swindled by capitalism.” He declared, “And it’s our job to reswindle it back!”
Let us return to human touch and play with The New Science in Action. Tetrad simultaneity? Lobbing logical leg-pulls? Can we unpredict? Navigate verbal and non-verbal communication of the new with friendSHIPS and humor.
“People change and forget to tell each other.” — Lillian Hellman
Where is this glorious not knowing going next? Unite comrades. All crew, no passengers. Journey from the darkness of the screaming room into the projecting light. What can be projected?
“I am not who you think I am,
I am not who I think I am,
I am who I think you think I am.” — Charles Cooley
From C to shing B,
from sea to bee,
see to be . . .
Stay in touch, Craig, we need your feel for humanity. Jimi Hendrix says, “I want learn about the new Mother Earth.”
THANK YOU, CRAIG, my bother from another mother.
We are the Other People, We are the Mother People (-Frank Zappa). Brother, can you paradigm? (-George Clinton)
* “Asterisks are used to identity distasteful passages.” (-P.D.Q. Bach)
The title of this essay references Jimi Hendrix: “Is it love or confusion?” Robert Christgau’s LA Times 8–15–19 article about Jimi’s Woodstock version of the national anthem has an explanation that might apply: “That’s because what matters about this ‘Star Spangled Banner’ isn’t what Hendrix thought it was, if he even knew exactly. Rather it’s what he meant to leave us free to think it was.”
Combining the complex clairvoyance and conceptual continuity of this Craigy cosmos, I discover that Mr. Baldwin elaborates on this “energy that goes into art-making” in AVANT TO LIVE on page 48. In the Irene Borger interview, Craig talks about that very Jimi performance, and says he wants “to do something that’s noisy, that has feedback in it. . . . My idea is to embrace the noise of pop culture and make art out of it . . . I’m not interested in reducing it to the signal. And whether or not there is a signal. I don’t know. But I’m not someone who’s just working with noise, which is, in my art-historical view, more like the modernists: ‘I’m just into the paint, and just into the pigment.’”
The feedback flips into feed forward ala the “double-duty interrobang,” which mysteriously appears in the deluxe box version of the book on an insert artwork page by John Klacsman: “Homage to collage master Baldwin.” The double-duty interrobang appeared in McLuhan’s book Cliche to Archetype superimposing an exclamation mark over a question mark, so they share the dot. It conjures the inquiry, “What the ?”
Fellow speaker Jeffrey Skoller demanded “YOUR MIND IS A BILLBOARD, ALTER IT!!” That recalls pioneer SF Buddhist comedians “If You Don’t Like the News, Go Out and Make Some of Your Own” — Wes Scoop Nisker. Wow, these were not just pattern recognition epiphanies, but “information recognition” insights on fire all around. It’s like Craig did not start the fire, he turned the alarm on — full blast!
The opening act: Jeremy Rourke singing a song live with his film of Craig’s archive on the screen behind him, was like the Wizard of Us. The sincerity of his voice and powerhouse lyrics touched us deeply, especially seeing the succinct aphorisms on Craig’s walls and hearing them as clarion calls. “Life is won by wresting (which means “to twist”) colors from the past.” — Gilles Deleuze. “Editing, one would hope, restores history’s polyphony.” Chris Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat. Multi-Mother-Meows?
Another fellow speaker, Rick Prelinger, smartly accentuated Craig as also — a “writer.” Much like another master of metaphor, Mark Twain, who wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Yeah, write! Circumstances change, but do similar events essentially repeat? With Colonel Craig leading the service, we are like RE-Joyceans rising from the dead: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
Mr. Prelinger also heralded, “Sous les paves, la plage.” This French 1968 slogan that expresses the freedom of the beach beneath the city, which has been hardened by stone. “What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be truly ‘underground’ cinema.” — Robert Smithson. Flipping destruction into construction?
How do we show concern for our best friends? Laying your cards on the table helps me understand and cope with confusion. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti. Whaa? I dreamt that the beginning of my presentation was me stumbling onto the stage, and whispering, “My chatbot tiktokked me the wrong email. I thought this was a ‘Craig Baldwin Roast.’ (Reading this off my faux faux cell phone, I mistakenly dropped it, moaned, and then kicked it towards Craig, I yelled ‘Craig wanna free cell phone? The worst things in life are free.’”
Sadly missed from this event was Stephen Parr who passed a few years ago. He and Craig partnered to form the Other Cinema DVD company. In Craig’s basement dwelling, I found several pictures of Stephen and the quote “we are who we archive.” Chris Marker seems to be whispering “…he understood there was no way to escape Time, and that this moment he had been granted to watch as a child, which had never ceased to obsess him, was the moment of his own death.”
Stephen and Craig were both influenced by artist Walter Alter, who wrote the following:
“We ran into each other at Jim English’s temporary rave club occupation of various galleria spaces in SF, him [Craig] projecting massive two hour reels of stock travelogue and documentary footage from the 1940’s and me building my TV sculptures. He was based at Marshal Webber’s Artist Television Access gallery and moved to the present ATA gallery space on Valencia St. after Marshal split for NY. The new space was almost across the street from my hole in the wall Batcave Scooter Shop, where the Mod scooter revival kids dubbed me “Batman” and long time scooterist Ted Langlais invited me to set up shop and bed down at the back of his Victorian duplex.
I had briefly met Craig a couple years earlier when he was looking for a roommate and I was looking for art space. I didn’t get a call back, so went on to a couple other things back at grandma’s house in Kentfield, Marin Co. where the scooter thing first got going. When the ATA moved across the street I started hanging out there from time to time and did a couple of performance gigs. Craig seemed to be perpetually on speed, he talked fast and thought fast. I admired his ability to surprise with some gigs at ATA that were not on the normal art circuit. For example, he featured an obscure Marine Major in G2 intelligence, David Steele, who, at the dawn of the Internet revolution, was stumping to have all intel agencies open source their reference materials so that the battle was not one of stealing data but, rather of interpreting data. That struck me as some smart shit for the dawning digital age. ATA hosted madman scientist Barry Schwartz and his 100,000 volt Tesla coil in a smoke filled manic performance piece in the ATA no-escape basement. Craig was an enlightened vehicle for edgy and difficult art, stuff that was from another creative dimension, including an intense Aleister Crowley ritual.
So I think that any superlative to choose to employ in Craig’s direction is going to play right to the core. I love the guy. As Lt. Col Craig Baldwin, USAF ret., he helped blow the lid off the long standing Nazi oligarch globalist takeover gambit via a simulated alien UFO visit a la “Day the Earth Stood Still” and the “Airmen” in Alexander Korda’s “Things to Come”, a gambit that is still in the works and rears its head from time to time.
So, yah, stick with your stretchy metaphors, Joycean neologisms and hipster poet erudition and for all our benefit. — Walter Alter https://www.youtube.com/@walteralter9061/videos
Jonas Salk, a hero to Craig, said “I was merely interested in things human, the human side of nature, if you like, and I continue to be interested in that. That’s what motivates me.” “The most human thing about us is our technology.” Marshall McLuhan. What is reality? What is reel? Our need to explore what it means to be human?
Thanks to Craig, we continue the search . . . to kick out the jams . . . to dance in our revolutions . . . our RE-evolutions . . . to sing “we done kicked’em out.”
GERRY FIALKA is a put-on artist who puts on events that probe hidden psychic effects of human inventions, letting us cope with their disservices and flip them into services. He needles somnambulism with eye-contact and direct experience, finding epiphanies in everydayness, satirizing information overload, inventing new questions and new metaphors, and doing nothing effectively. As a paramedia ecologist and podcast-breather, he lectures world-wide on experimental film, avant-garde art, subversive social media via Laughtears.com
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Gerry Fialka book: Strange Questions: Experimental Film as Conversation (2020) http://laughtears.com/ McLuhanWake.html