phile under: TBA art

Review: Robert Boyd’s Conspiracy Theory

By Lisa Radon September 8, 2009

Conspiracy Theory, Robert Boyd. still.

Robert Boyd’s two-channel video work, Conspiracy Theory, collages found footage concerning conspiracy theories on AIDS, the New World Order, UFO’s and 9/11 set to a happy dance track. There are plenty of talking heads warning of secret master plans and predicting doom cut in with footage from sci-fi movies, the planes hitting the Twin Towers, and other newsreel-esque snippets.

Boyd’s work is currently on view at PNCA‘s Feldman Gallery for PICA’s TBA:09 Festival.

I was instantly reminded of Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America which deals with similar themes of conspiracy, fear, control, applied to a different topic: American imperialism in Central America. Baldwin’s 1991 film used found footage (more interesting found footage) to create a story of aliens taking refuge under the earth’s surface.

Brody’s aims are more limited, essentially offering a buffet menu mashup of conspiracy theories as delivered by their proponents and occasionally illustrated.

The big reveal comes in footage of Mario Savio, the 1960’s Berkeley activist, here sounding like a 1930’s labor organizer: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who own it that unless you are free the machine will be prevented from working at all."

The piece pivots on this (inspired) speech. Boyd is half criticizing the conspiracy kooks ("And that was the first time I was abducted by an alien.") and half saying the kooks may be kooky but they’ve got one thing right: "forces" are controlling the "machine" and at least the kooks are doing something about it. Are you?

I haven’t been reading the interviews curator Kristan Kennedy has done with her artists before I write about their work. This time I did. Boyd isn’t interviewed, but submits a list of ten films, a list he calls "Conspiracy Countdown." It is more than odd that Baldwin’s film doesn’t make this list which offers both documentary (I was tempted to put that in quotation marks") and feature film. Is it possible that Boyd is not aware of the film that seems to have directly inspired his own?

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