Found police surveillance footage of a tearoom (a term for notorious spots to find public but covert gay sex) in 1962 makes up William E. Jones' "Tearoom." On July 23rd, this former piece of courtroom evidence will be projected on the walls of New York's oldest gay bar, Julius.
Most high-minded curators and the artists they regularly work with would turn their noses up at the idea of screening a film at a bar. But the bar — the activity, social and sexual, that takes place inside — and its history are the very reasons Dirty Looks: On Location series will be screening "Tearoom" at Julius.
Creative Director, Bradford Nordeen, who hosts New York's art queers and cinephiles for his monthly queer experimental film and video series, Dirty Looks, is taking on a project that is far more ambitious than those most New York programmers would dare.
For the entire month of July, Dirty Looks: On Location will be hosting one event per day at a different site of historical or social importance each day. Ranging from film projections on the walls of queer businesses to interactive video playlists to covert screenings in buildings with secret queer pasts, Dirty Looks: On Location is an ambitious series of events. Dirty Looks: On Location is currently on Kickstarter looking to raise the funds needed to complete the month-long series.
And so Nordeen, who programs the main Dirty Looks series himself with the help of a small operations staff, has invited twelve curators to lend their curatorial eye and to plan individual screenings. Among them are David Everitt Howe (Curator-in-Residence, Abrons Arts Center), Jamillah James (independent curator) and Karl McCool (Temple University) [Full disclosure: This writer is one of those curators.]
The idea for Dirty Looks: On Location was born out of the experience of taking Dirty Looks on the road for a weeklong road trip along the west coast. Nordeen explained to Indiewire, "During the road show, we screened at our most institutional venues, white cubes. We had a 2 PM screening at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. I was used to screening films at alternative and non-profit spaces at 8:30PM and with beer."
These arrangements on tour made Nordeen think more about the context and nature of experimental film screenings. And what better city than New York to embrace a diversity of screening contexts, which bring nuance and value to the works screened. "There's a hunger for this kind of material in New York. While we had a great turn out at all of our road show stops, the rabid engagement with the material in New York bowls me over as a curator."
To prepare for On Location, Nordeen flipped through the pages of George Chauncey's "Gay New York" for a better sense of the city's history, and referred back, as he always does, to the classic texts in the avant-garde film world, Parker Tyler's "Underground Film" and P. Adams Sitney's "Visionary Film" among them, to both access and complement the canon of experimental queer film and video.
"No series has engaged with histories of the community in such informative educational but also exciting ways," Nordeen claimed. "It's a social kind of film festival that works with the flow of summer. Everyone is hot and constantly moving from one space to the next. You can go to a Dirty Looks: On Location event or you can just happen upon it. You might not know what that store front once was! We'll have postcards at each night and be there to chat — it's all about gaining a deeper understanding, a richer idea of the city we're living in."
For more information and to support Dirty Looks: On Location, here is the project's Kickstarter page.
Below is a video outlining the history of the Everard Baths, a former home of gay sex, a part of the video series Dirty Looks is creating to explore New York's queer history as part of the On Location project: