One suspects the semi-recently rebranded Scanners: The 2006 New York Video Festival has tweaked its nomenclature in an effort to upgrade its image for the new-media era. Yet, while this year’s event includes a few live sets—among them eternally New Wave vid-artist Charles Atlas performing a musical act called “The Intensity Police Are Working My Last Gay Nerve,” an in-progress demo of Toni Dove’s interactive movie Spectropia and an interactive piece employing audience members’ cell phones—most programs hew to lineups of single-channel experimental shorts, heavy with mid-career names that have shown in many editions.
But the standard festival format serves well for at least one fantastic entry: William E. Jones’s grubbily austere, conceptually elegant V.O. Jones’s 59-minute featurette collects dramatic non-sex scenes from the William Higgins–era golden age of gay porn films and sets them to a variety of disjunctively highbrow European soundtracks: an interview with Jean Genet, or clips of dialogue from films by the likes of Werner Schroeter and Raul Ruiz. Street scenes of ’70s L.A. and New York reclaim a documentary valence, and V.O. could be dubbed a queer corollary to Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, if not for the fact that Jones explored a similar process in his 1999 short The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (as CalArts colleagues, there’s undoubted influence between the two directors). Jones’s archival anthropology also serves a reminder that such scenes exist due to their provenance: After all, these were cinematic works meant to be watched, not merely fast-forwarded or downloaded.