Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 7:30pm
Peter Emshwiller's Jr. Star Trek + Alex Bag's Untitled (Project for the Whitney Museum)

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Jr. Star Trek, Peter Emshwiller, 1969, 16mm, 8 mins
Untitled (Project for the Whitney Museum), Alex Bag, 2009, digital projection, 38 mins

In 1969, a pre-teen Peter Emshwiller decided to recreate an episode of his favorite TV show, Star Trek, with his friends on Long Island. He borrowed a 16mm camera belonging to his father, avant-garde filmmaker Ed Emshwiller, and created an array of homemade costumes, makeshift prostheses, and cardboard props. Though the elder Emshwiller provided technical advice and played an alien monster, Peter was determined to helm the project on his own. He directed the film, starred as Captain Kirk, and dubbed all the characters’ voices himself with his father’s reel-to-reel audio recorder, which he also used to tape sound effects and music from the original show when it aired. For special effects like phaser beams and explosions, he meticulously scratched and colored the film, frame by frame, with an X-Acto blade and magic markers. “There was never a feeling that this film was going to be a 'spoof' or 'cute,'” Peter explained to an interviewer many years later. “I tackled the project with the utmost seriousness only a kid can have. In my 10-year-old mind, I was creating a real Star Trek episode that just happened to star myself and my buddies.“ You could say that sci fi was in Peter’s blood—in addition to his work as a filmmaker, his father was renowned as an illustrator of post-war science fiction, while his mother, Carol Emshwiller, would become a celebrated author within the genre. Eventually the film was even embraced by Trekkers themselves: it screened at numerous Star Trek conventions, and is today remembered as the earliest fan-made movie of its kind.

For the video Untitled (Project for the Whitney Museum), Alex Bag drew upon her own relationship with Aquarian-age television. A prime inspiration was the artist's mother, Carol Corbett, star of The Patchwork Family, a syndicated 1970s children’s program that she co-hosted alongside a floppy orange puppet. Bag first came to prominence in the 1990s with works like the wry, echt Gen-X Untitled (Fall ‘95), a tape in which she plays a stereotypical art student whose style and sensibility evolve from grunge to goth to club kid as she progresses through semesters at SVA, and here she once again assumes a comic alter-ego, though of a darker and rather disturbing sort. “In this new work, instead of being happy, smiley, and full of song, the hostess will be prone to depression, maybe a cutter—I don’t know yet,” Bag told Artforum.com in a statement published three days before her show at the Whitney would open. “I’m working with actors who are my friends. I give them some direction; in this project, for example, I instructed them to act as though they are writing a suicide note to the youth of today.” What premiered at the museum was a low-rent kid’s show, rendered with janky chroma key, replacing the friendly pop-psychedelic backgrounds of her mother’s series with iTunes visualizer graphics, fiery disaster footage, and pixelated art history jpegs. As drowsy emcee, Bag stares limply into the camera, rambling semi-coherently. Her sidekick, a sarcastic plush dragon, berates her mercilessly; little ones gather round for storytime with Sartre’s Nausea. The expansive, forward-thinking promise of a Free to Be...You and Me upbringing is everywhere curdled into the grim and paralyzing self-knowledge of a midlife crisis. Something of a spiritual sequel to Bag’s earliest outings, the piece, as writer Bruce Hainley noted, ”revisits the plights of pedagogy showcased in Untitled (Fall ’95), only this time the student has become, whether she likes it or not, the teacher.”

Tickets - $8, available at door.

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