Peggy and Fred in Hell, Thornton’s ongoing and open-ended video series, maps a surreal, quasi-apocalyptic realm littered with the detritus of a pop culture bursting at the seams. Castaways in this wilderness of signs, Peggy and Fred are, as Thornton states, “raised by television,” their experience shaped by a palimpsest of science and science-fiction, new technologies and obsolete ones, half-remembered movies and the leavings of history. An exploration of the aesthetics of narrative form as well as the politics of the image, Thornton’s rigorously experimental oeuvre has forged a unique and powerful syntax.
Refracted through archival material, texts, found footage and dense soundtracks, Leslie Thornton’s rigorously experimental film and video work is an investigation into the production of meaning through media. For Thornton, form and content are co-extensive, as exemplified by her epic project Peggy and Fred in Hell, an ongoing cycle of interrelated films, videos and installation environments focusing on two children who have been “raised by television.” Heterogeneous and open-ended, the series defies conceptions of masterwork, author, and the strictures of beginning, middle and end.
This resistance to categorization is informed by Thornton’s concerns with language and her view of media as a linguistic system that is ideologically coded and subject to the controls of culture and the market. Her works are interventions on contested terrain, in which the stakes are conventions of reading and writing, legibility and transparency. For Thornton, the conventions of narrative and montage… read more