Sweeter than candy on a stick
The film buffs at Light Industry are suckers for G.B. Jones's new film.
Mon Dec 8 2008
The writer Dennis Cooper once compared The Lollipop Generation, the famously unfinished film about underage porn stars by Canadian director and queercore icon G.B. Jones, to Orson Welles's The Other Side of the Wind. Jones's film, he wrote, "is roughly to queer cinema" what Welles's film "is to, well, cinema." In addition to being a filmmaker, musician and visual artist, Jones also cofounded J.D.'s, the zine that launched the queer antiestablishment cultural movement of the mid-'80s.
The writer Dennis Cooper once compared The Lollipop Generation, the famously unfinished film about underage porn stars by Canadian director and queercore icon G.B. Jones, to Orson Welles's The Other Side of the Wind. Jones's film, he wrote, "is roughly to queer cinema" what Welles's film "is to, well, cinema." In addition to being a filmmaker, musician and visual artist, Jones also cofounded J.D.'s, the zine that launched the queer antiestablishment cultural movement of the mid-'80s. After 15 years in the making, the bisexual artist's erotic magnum opus is finally hitting the screen in all its lo-fi, grainy glory.
The Lollipop Generation will make its New York premiere Tuesday 16 at Light Industry, a venue for alternative and experimental film and art in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Light Industry is located in Industry City, a mammoth, six-million-square-foot former industrial complex that now offers low-rent studios to artists. Ed Halter, 38, and Thomas Beard, 24, opened Light Industry this spring, where they've been screening avant-garde films every Tuesday.
Both men have made their careers in the experimental cinema and art worlds: Halter is a film critic, was a programmer for San Francisco's gay film fest Frameline and served as the head of the New York Underground Film Festival for ten years; Beard is a freelance art writer and curator and was a programmer for Cinematexas in Austin and Ocularis in Brooklyn. Their love affair with cinema extends beyond work, though—Halter and Beard met five years ago in the lobby of Anthology Film Archives and have been a couple since.
Running Light Industry has given Halter and Beard the chance to expose the work of artists they've admired to the public, while keeping the underground element central. The queer aspect to their programming has followed quite naturally. "One goal of ours is to bring together disparate communities of the moving image," says Halter. "While we definitely think about maintaining a good gender balance, we don't explicitly think about whether the invitees are queer or not. But a number have been."
Some of those past guests include William E. Jones, who presented his own reconstruction of classic Fred Halsted gay porn this summer, and the pioneering lesbian filmmaker Su Friedrich, who curated a show. Artists like these certainly draw an LGBT audience, but, says Beard, "while these people are very well known to those who are familiar with contemporary queer culture, they are also people who are known in the art world more broadly. And you wouldn't see artists like this in an exclusively gay festival."
Welcoming G.B. Jones to Light Industry is a particular triumph for the organizers. "Her work is just such a perfect emblem of a certain strain of DIY filmmaking and DIY culture in North America," says Beard. "The whole ethos that epitomizes that work is, in a way, how we conceived of the space itself: being a little punk rock in its design and really only needing the bare essential elements to make this sort of event happen. Her work and our space have an affinity to one another."
The attraction began when Halter saw Jones's previous film, the cult faux-documentary The Yo-Yo Gang, in the mid-'90s. "It wasn't even finished but it was already showing," he says. "It was the quintessential underground punk film. Like Lollipop, it was shot over several years, had an overlaid soundtrack, and was very funny and kind of crazy." The film stuck in his mind for years.
Halter has been awaiting the completion of Lollipop ever since, not just because of an interest in Jones's lo-fi technique, but because of the length of time over which it was shot. "By being so many years in the making, it's chronicling a really interesting piece of queer culture in North America over 15 years," explains Beard.
One Super-8 reel at a time, Jones captured an extraordinary array of queer underground performers—a generation, indeed (actor Mark Ewert, multimedia artist Scott Treleaven, Yo-Yo Gang star Jena von Brucker and punk drag legend Vaginal Davis are just a few). In this slice of history portraying the youthful freedom of alternative street life, a grotesque, John Waters--ian band of young runaways connect with one another by indulging in intense oral fixations satisfied only by lollipops (use your imagination, people), accompanied by a time-spanning soundtrack featuring Jane Danger, the Hidden Cameras and Italian industrial-music project Mariae Nascenti.
Jones, who rarely makes New York appearances, will introduce the screening herself, a true treat for underground-film buffs, queercore veterans and the latest generation of gay runaways, who these days seem to crawl around the South Brooklyn industrial park. They might be a little more clean-cut than Jones's crew, but they like lollipops all the same.
The Lollipop Generation screens at Light Industry Tue 16.