Media Cannibal: An Interview with filmmaker Craig Baldwin

Version Magazine, a sharp-lookin', new Auckland-based arts and culture publication, has reprinted my interview with film-collage artist Craig Baldwin. Here's the intro, click here for the wide-ranging interview. [Note: Version is now defunct.]

Having a conversation with Craig Baldwin is a lot like seeing his films. His athletic leaps in logic are as jarring as a jump-cut edit from a Mexican B-movie to a ‘50s-era propaganda film, yet the progression of his argument, like film, moves ever forward. He deftly navigates topics from the media consolidation to his thoughts on cellphones, from culture jamming to corporate accountability. Winner of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts and a featured filmmaker in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, Baldwin considers himself a “media cannibal.” He constructs films from reclaimed snippets of instructional films, TV commercials, and local newscasts, crafting a retro-tech look through the use of 8mm and 16mm film, Pixelvision clips, and kinescope technology—all manually edited together. His is the realm of “media archaeology,” and his targets, conversely, are the power brokers of high-tech media. In Sonic Outlaws, his most popular film, Baldwin tells the story of U2’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the band Negativland. The film is the first comprehensive survey of culture jamming, tracing its roots from Dada, introducing viewers to artists like John Oswald, the Tape Beatles, Emergency Broadcast Network, and other pioneers of detournement.

Spectres of the Spectrum, questions technophilia, modern society’s misplaced confidence in the “electronic mesh” (as MacLuhan calls it), and corporate control of the airwaves. His films are unapologetically subversive. But, unlike the work of Noam Chomsky, with whom he’s often compared, they’re also entertaining. As he puts it, “I stage a little show, a little cabaret, so to speak. I put a little lipstick on. It’s an editorial cartoon.”


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