With Los Angeles Filmmaker
William E. Jones in Person

Tea room

Sunday, May 16, 2008

Tearoom (1962/2007, 56 mins., video), which was selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial, is a provocative act of appropriation. Jones presents original 1962 police surveillance footage of a men’s bathroom with only very minor intervention. The images are raw and powerful and the film invites exploration from a number of perspectives: portraiture, queer history, anthropology, sociology, documentary, voyeurism, structural film, and ever kinesthetics. It is a rich work, both fascinating and disturbing.

Jones writes: “Tearoom consists of footage shot by the police in the course of a crackdown on public sex in the American Midwest. In the summer of 1962, the Mansfield, Ohio, Police Department photographed men in a restroom under the main square of the city. The cameramen hid in a closet and watched the clandestine activities through a two-way mirror. The film they shot was used in court as evidence against the defendants, all of whom were found guilty of sodomy, which at that time carried a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in the state penitentiary. The original surveillance footage shot by the police came into the possession of director William E. Jones while he was researching this case for a documentary project. The unedited scenes of ordinary men of various races and classes meeting to have sex were so powerful that the director decided to present the footage with a minimum of intervention. Tearoom is a radical example of film presented ‘as found’ for the purpose of circulating historical images that have otherwise been suppressed.”

Jones has published a companion book Tearoom (2nd Cannons Publications), which contains many historical texts relating to the Mansfield cases, as well as over 100 frame enlargements from the video. Limited copies of the book will be available for sale at the screenings.

Showing with Tearoom is a short experimental video Jones made from the original footage: Mansfield 1962 (2006, 9 mins., video).

William E. Jones has been making work for nearly twenty years. His films Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997) were both highly acclaimed documentary-essay works and his recent video v.o. (2006) has had great success on the film festival circuit and at film venues around the world. His films and videos were the subject of a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London in 2005. He works in the adult video industry under the name Hudson Wilcox and teaches film history at Art Center College of Design under his own name.

Filed under: artist in attendance, documentary, experimental, film, found footage, surveillance