Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 7:30pm
Muntadas's Credits + William E. Jones's Finished

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Credits, Muntadas, 1984, digital projection, 27 mins
Finished, William E. Jones, 1997, 16mm, 75 mins

“I once became infatuated with someone I could never know,” William E. Jones states at the outset of his probing essay film Finished, the director’s voice running calmly over scenes purloined from an old black-and-white Hollywood movie. “He was a loner and a rebel, a tragic character determined to sacrifice himself for some higher purpose. Most people dismissed him as a lunatic or a fraud, but they had been deceived by appearances. I wanted to fall into his arms and say that I cared about him for who he really was. He didn’t have to throw himself into the abyss; love could redeem him.” Jones soon reveals the object of his unrequited affections: gay porn actor Alan Lambert, who committed suicide in a public square in Montreal in 1992 at age twenty-five, a few years after the filmmaker first encountered his photo in a phone-sex ad and became inexorably drawn to his image.

In Finished, Jones chronicles his quest to learn something about Lambert’s private existence. But in hunting down and piecing together a biography for the ill-fated Quebecois star, he reconstructs him less as a person than an enigmatic collection of evidence: magazine photo spreads, the frozen title sequences of his video releases (arranged alphabetically: Bare Bottoms, Beach Dreamer, Boot Camp, Boot Camp II, et al), footage shot at sites in Canada and Los Angeles where Lambert lived and worked, information gleaned from interviews with former colleagues (identified only by initial letters, like the characters in old diary entries or Freud’s clinical essays), and Lambert’s rambling, semi-coherent suicide note, written in the form of a self-aggrandizing socialist manifesto. Jones recomposes these disparate elements into an investigation not only of Lambert’s life, but the life of any subject under media-inflected capitalism. “The beauty of the pictures of Lambert’s body and of Los Angeles bewilder the narration’s stern inquiry into the commodification of the body in pornography,” writer Bruce Hainley noted. “Jones’s decision to absent the straightforward depiction of gay sex acts complicates what pornography is ‘for’ or ‘about.’ He reeroticizes sexual imagery, as omnipresent as it is corporatized, by analyzing a mortal narrative paradoxically hidden within a pornography that bares all.”

Muntadas's Credits, which will be running continuously as visitors arrive to the screening, provides an even more austere analysis of media artifacts, in this case taken from far less prurient sources. In the early 1980s, the artist taped the last moments of numerous television programs, collecting their credit sequences into a 27-minute compilation that could be exhibited on a monitor as an endless loop. The original material ranges from national network shows, to local station offerings, to janky cable-access creations; from Hill Street Blues to The Lawrence Welk Show to a broadcast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, all assembled without further attribution. Severed from their origins, the soundtrack musics cover a similar expanse, from disco pep to symphonic melancholy, but most are interrupted by the voice of a male announcer, informing viewers about what’s coming next (the promised programming, in Muntadas’s edit, never arrives). By isolating what the artist has termed the “invisible” information contained within television’s eternal flow, Credits, like Finished, documents an end that doubles as a beginning, scrutinizing the most marginal traces of image production so as to grant them new life.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.