Director, Craig Baldwin
















 1. Spectres of the Spectrum
 2 + 3. Sonic Outlaws


Craig Baldwin (USA)


Spectres of the Spectrum
Script, production, direction: Craig Baldwin
USA, 1999, 16mm, 91 min

The year is 2007. Life in the desert outside Las Vegas is desolate. Uncontrolled technology is destroying the universe. Radio, TV, radars, x-rays, microwaves and tens of other plagues are corrupting our collective consciousness. A supranational Big Brother called NEO (New Electromagnetic Order) is preparing for the final solution, “The Pulse” that will wipe out all life from Earth. Physicists Yogi (father) and BooBoo (daughter) are humanity’s only hope. They discover that an episode of a 1957 Science in Action TV series may contain a coded message that could be used to prevent the destruction. BooBoo uses the time machine she’s invented to travel through the 20th century. During the trip, she gets an overdose of greed, decadence, military speculation and political power games of multinational corporations.

Trying to describe the plot of Craig Baldwin’s latest movie is like trying to photograph lightning. Spectres of the Spectrum is like a massive surge of paranoid evidence from the past century. In this chaotic fairytale world Edison, Tesla, Georges Méliès, Aleister Crowley, RCA, Microsoft, the destruction of the Titanic etc. form, almost self-evidently, a manic tangle of conspiracy. Baldwin’s feverish storytelling uninhibitedly combines the oddest media-archaeological pieces: horror movies, educational programmes, corporate presentation films, news, cartoons, quiz shows...

As a conspiracy theory, the satire of Spectres of the Spectrum is extremely funny, and genuinely political, too. The result of three years’ work, the film is an unparalleled found-footage combination of formal experimentation, leftist activism and top entertainment. Baldwin’s vision is clear. He is not trying to hide his repulsion for supranational monopolies, globalisation and the “free information society”.

To those with wide musical tastes the soundtrack alone is a real treasure trove, with artists like Atari Teenage Riot, Walter Carlos, DJ Spooky, Dick Hyman, Illusion of Safety, Joe Meek, Merzbow, Nurse With Wound, Pauline Oliveiros, Korla Pandit, Stereolab, Morton Subotnick, The Ventures, Zoviet France...MT


Sonic Outlaws
Direction: Craig Baldwin
USA, 1995, 87 min, 16 mm

Sonic Outlaws is a rowdy crash course in 80's and 90's American counterculture. In starring roles, plagiarism and the copywrong movement linked with copyrights owned by large corporations; supported by anti-branding actions, billboard sabotage and the illicit sampling of entertainers and politicians etc., all in the name of fun and anti-authoritarian gain. In the past couple of years these strategies, with roots in artistic sub-cultures, have been embraced by “real” politics in the form of activism, as Naomi Klein writes in her book No Logo. Craig Baldwin’s collage document retraces the activists’ Culture Jamming back to Dada, the situationists’ criticism of the 'society of the spectacle' and 80's U.S. networking sub-cultures.

At the same time Sonic Outlaws is an audiovisual fireworks display of underground Americana, breathtaking and colourful; real trash culture modified for new purposes. A large part of its material has been pilfered, without permission, from B-movies and cable TV shows, which underlines the concept of the folklore of the electronic age, reiterated by many of the “sonic outlaws” interrogated in the film. According to them, tradition-based folk art cannot emerge in the present world because all significant images and sounds are strictly protected by copyright laws, and thus can’t be used as parts of new works. The most fervent even call this a new kind of censorship.

The wealth of material in Sonic Outlaws is held together - in true American style - by a court case. In 1991, the San Francisco group Negativland sampled U2 without permission and mixed their music with foul-mouthed comments about the band, uttered by an American radio celebrity and taped without his knowledge. The resulting record, called U2, was released by Negativland who were immediately sued by U2's record company. The record company defended the copyright of its financially heaviest stars even though the “supergroup” claimed they didn’t want to sue anybody. The following year when U2 started their massive Zoo TV stadium tour, there was an even stranger twist to the story that reveals a lot about the subtle mechanisms of today’s capitalism. U2 hired another American underground group, Emergency Broadcast Network, to stage a trendy copywrong show with huge video monitors showing TV broadcasts from different countries - no permissions asked - and “spectacle critical” slogans projected onto a screen.

From the Finnish point of view, the satire of Negativland, John Oswald, Tape Beatles & co is at its funniest when it mocks major rock stars and the global cult surrounding them. A good example is the scene depicting a Hellenic deity resembling a Soviet war memorial, with one of the audio activists declaring: “It’s a GOOD THING that artifically blown up, hollow cult heroes are criticized and made laughable. The hype surrounding them is an insult to every thinking human being.” AN

Read an interview with Craig Baldwin by Alvin Lu.

Thursday 8.11.2001 - Kiasma Theatre
18:00 - Screening of Spectres of the Spectrum

Sunday 11.11.2001 - Kiasma Theatre
14:00 - Screening of Sonic Outlaws
20:00 - Screening of Spectres of the Spectrum