William E. Jones
A Part of America Contained Therein, 2019
Sunday, October 6 at 7pm
800 SE 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
Artist and filmmaker William E. Jones will present and discuss a selection of his films and videos. This screening event happens in conjunction with Perverted by Language, a two-person exhibition by Mark Flores and William E. Jones at Private Places.
Killed (sequence of digital files, black and white, silent, 1 minute and 44 seconds, 2009)
During the Great Depression, the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration documented American society in photographs. The director of this program, Roy Emerson Stryker, edited rolls of photographs taken in the field after they were sent to Washington, D.C. for processing. Not a photographer himself, but a social scientist and educator, Stryker had the ultimate say over which of the 145,000 negatives exposed by FSA photographers were worthy of printing and publication. Many of the pictures made under the program’s auspices from 1935 to 1943 were rejected, or killed. Roy Stryker and his assistants routinely killed 35mm negatives by punching holes in them, thereby rendering them unusable for publication. Photographers working under Stryker strenuously objected to an editorial practice that they regarded as dictatorial and capricious, and Stryker finally stopped destroying their work in early 1939. All killed negatives were preserved and filed away, but they remained unprinted, and until recently, unseen. When the Library of Congress began making high resolution digital scans of FSA negatives available on its website, it included many rejected images, and among them, a small number of killed negatives mutilated by a hole punch. In Killed, these suppressed images from the Library of Congress have been reframed with the holes as the central feature, and edited in a quick montage showing glimpses of an unofficial view of Depression-era America.
Discrepancy (high definition video, color and b/w, sound, 9 minutes and 36 seconds, 2017)
The soundtrack of Discrepancy, read by the computer voice “Alex,” is adapted from the film Traité de bave et d’éternité (1951) by Isidore Isou. The film is Isou’s manifesto of cinéma discrepant. The fundamental principle of “discrepant cinema” is a disregard of the image in order to privilege written narration. There is no attempt to illustrate the text. The relation of sound and image can—indeed, should—be as arbitrary and opaque as possible. Furthermore, the images are often “chiseled,” i.e., scratched, dirtied, splattered with ink and distressed beyond recognition. Isou engaged in a perverse iconoclasm in a medium conventionally understood to be primarily visual. In his manifesto, he argued that he did violence to the image in order to renew the film medium. He also asserted that “any novelist can make a film without spending a penny.” Discrepancy (2008–2017) follows Isou’s example and presents a wide variety of films, most of them found in the Library of Congress. These include films produced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, and China, confiscated by the US government, and now part of the CIA Film Library. There are also abstract films, erotic films, and television documentaries in this 12-screen version of Discrepancy, a project that can conceivably be produced in infinite variations, as long as new film footage can be found.
Midcentury (high definition video, b/w and color, sound, 30 minutes, 2017)
A compilation mixing new and old material, Midcentury mimics the form of a television network’s broadcast day condensed into a half hour. Though Midcentury contains no first person narration, it can be considered an autobiography of sorts: the work of a hyperactive child who grew up in an industrial wasteland during the Cold War and watched far too much television. Experimental films alternate with television commercials from which the product has been effaced. Great and famous men appear and make statements about the state of the world, circa 1950. On the soundtrack, women from the Weather Underground and Albania’s Radio Tirana speak from other points of view. The compilation ends with a film of “The Star Spangled Banner” accompanied by patriotic images, the old fashioned sign-off used by television stations in the wee hours of the morning. Like the advertisements, this footage has been almost completely obliterated. Originally made for the 2009 Venice Biennale, Midcentury has been remade and remastered in high definition video.
Fall into Ruin (high definition video, color, sound, 30 minutes, 2017)
Fall into Ruin tells the story of artist William E. Jones’s relationship with Alexander Iolas (1907–1987), a Greek art dealer from Alexandria active in New York and European cities from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. Iolas had close connections to the Surrealists, to artists associated with Nouveau Réalisme, and to American artists such as Ed Ruscha, Harold Stevenson, and Paul Thek. At the height of his career, he maintained galleries in New York, Paris, Madrid, Geneva, Milan, and Athens. After Iolas’s death from AIDS in 1987, the art collection in his house disappeared; this collection included Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, as well as works by artists Iolas represented, including Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray, Victor Brauner, Matta, Yves Klein, Takis, and Niki de Saint Phalle. The empty house was later vandalized extensively. For Fall into Ruin, Jones returned to a place he first visited when he was 19 years old. The film includes not only contemporary images of the site in its ruined state, but also photographs Jones took in 1982 of Iolas’s house in its glory. Fall into Ruin was part of Jones’s solo exhibitions at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, and at The Modern Institute, Glasgow. The film’s international festival premiere took place at the 63rd Oberhausen Film Festival.
William E. Jones was born in Canton, Ohio, and now lives in Los Angeles. He graduated from Yale University in 1985, and in 1990 he received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He has made two feature length experimental films, Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997), which won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award; videos include The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998); and the documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004). He was included in the 1993 and 2008 Biennial Exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His work has been the subject of retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, in 2005; at Anthology Film Archives, New York, in 2010; at the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna, in 2011.
Jones is the author of numerous books, including Killed: Rejected Images of the Farm Security Administration (2010), Halsted Plays Himself (2011), Between Artists: Thom Andersen and William E. Jones (2013), Imitation of Christ, which was named one of the best photo books of 2013 by Time magazine, Flesh and the Cosmos (2014), True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell (2016), and the recently published novel I’m Open to Anything (2019). His writing has also appeared in periodicals such as Artforum, Butt, Frieze, Mousse, and White Review.