. Conversations at the Edge (CATE)

Nov 6 – The X-Ray of Civilization: Films by Tom Rubnitz, David Wojnarowicz, and Tommy Turner

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | November 2, 2014

Thursday, November 6th | Introduced by Marvin J. Taylor, Director of Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University and founder of the Downtown collection

Still from Psykho III The Musical (Tom Rubnitz, 1985). Courtesy of Video Data Bank.

Still from Psykho III The Musical (Tom Rubnitz, 1985). Courtesy of Video Data Bank.

The Culture Wars and devastation of the AIDS epidemic contributed to a cultural scene in 1980s New York that crackled with tension and ached with sadness. Against this background, artists Tom Rubnitz, David Wojnarowicz, and Tommy Turner transformed mass media’s detritus into transgressive responses to the socio-political order. From the sprawling suburbs in Where Evil Dwells (Turner/Wojnarowicz, 1985) to America’s status as a global military power in Listen to This (Rubnitz/Wojnarowicz, 1992) and A Fire in My Belly (Wojnarowicz, 1985) to Hollywood itself in Psykho III The Musical (Rubnitz, 1985), the three artists scrutinized and scathingly satirized mainstream American iconography.

1985–92, USA/Mexico, multiple formats, ca 85 min + discussion

Tom Rubnitz (1956, Chicago–1992, New York) was a video artist best associated with New York City’s East Village drag scene in the 1980s. Rubnitz crafted low-budget, candy-colored video fantasies featuring the likes of Ann Magnuson, the B-52s, the Lady Bunny, and the late John Sex. A genre artist par excellence, Rubnitz treated the sexy-druggy-wiggy-luscious-desserty qualities of the ’80s Downtown club scene with the loving care only a true hedonist could show.

David Wojnarowicz (1954, Red Bank, New Jersey–1992, New York) was a painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and powerful presence in the New York City downtown art scene of the 1970s and ‘80s. Wojnarowicz’s work affirmed art’s vivifying power in a society he viewed as alienating and corrosive, especially for those who were not part of the mainstream.

Tommy Turner (1959, New York– ), began documenting New York City through moving image in the late 1970s. Turner contributed to magazines such as Richard Kern’s The Valium Addict and then went on to produce a magazine of his own titled Redrum. He has subsequently become associated with the underground movement Cinema of Transgression. Turner has exhibited his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, San Francisco; and The British Film Institute, London.

The X-Ray of Civilization Program Notes