Now Playing! ‘Blazing and Blasted’ Unleashes ’90s Bay Area Avant-Garde

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Craig Baldwin, Still from 'Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America,' 1991. (Courtesy of the artist)

Once upon a time, on fog-swept evenings on a sleepy industrial block of King Street, the hand-built no nothing cinema showed experimental films by the likes of Dean Snider and Rock Ross, who lived and worked in the adjoining low-rise, low-tech building. The construction of Pacific Bell Park, as the Giants’ stadium was originally called, displaced the no nothing to another SoMa location.

It makes profound cosmic sense that ace curator Joel Shepard penciled Snider’s 1989 short Without You Babe into the leadoff spot of Blazing and Blasted: Post-Punk Pre-Tech Underground Film in 1990s San Francisco. Not only is Snider’s home long gone, the filmmaker took leave of the planet (in 1994, even before the ballpark was approved by the voters). Then and now, his cheeky, confessional, confronting and irreverent films are a fresh-squeezed antidote to convention and complacency.

Blazing and Blasted consists of four programs (beginning at 10am and repeating at 2pm) at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The film series runs through Jan. 18, 2020 in conjunction with the fascinating photo exhibition Michael Jang’s California.

Sarah Jacobson, Still from 'I Was a Teenage Serial Killer,' 1993.
Sarah Jacobson, Still from 'I Was a Teenage Serial Killer,' 1993. (Courtesy of the artist)

Snider’s ghost isn’t the only one haunting the premises. The late Sarah Jacobson is represented in the same program (dubbed “Creepy Crawl”) with I Was a Teenage Serial Killer (1993), an exuberantly punk, suburbia-scarred blast of fiercely funny feminism. The dearly departed George Kuchar’s equally subversive Uncle Evil (1996) is the “Subterranean” program’s appetizer before the hallucinatory-yet-plausible Craig Baldwin (alive and well, thank you very much!) alternative-history smorgasbord Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991).

Shepard’s selections are frequently funny, taking us back to a time when art could make serious (and even political) points in amusing ways without being derided as trivial. The early ’90s was a period when a new crew of young artists—queer, impertinent, Latinx, idealistic, black, uninhibited—used newly accessible video cameras to make personal works that looked outward as well as inward. Youth may be fleeting, but the films live on.