In January 2011, writer and curator Bradford Nordeen launched Dirty Looks NYC, a roving screening series for queer experimental film. “We sort of realized that there was no regular, New York city programming to focus exclusively on queer experimental film,” Nordeen told Bad at Sports that fall. “So I said, ‘then I’ll do it!’”
Three years later, Dirty Looks NYC has grown tremendously in stature while maintaining a kind of knowing intimacy at its screenings, which usually involve the excavation of overlooked films and pairings of different artists’ work. These events and interventions have taken place at the Museum of Modern Art, on rooftops, and in historic queer bars. The series has become a reliable fixture on a certain New York circuit, a consistent program that’s just as sure to introduce you to something amazing you never knew existed as it is to screen an obscure video you’ve heard of but never thought you’d get a chance see.
Not long after the project’s anniversary this past January, Nordeen announced the launch of a new aspect of Dirty Looks NYC: an online publishing platform, titled “Library” on the series’ website. Zines and printed pamphlets have always been a part of the Dirty Looks program, with one accompanying each screening, but the texts have never been collected and published online before now. “Dirty Looks NYC is educational by design — we work to trace aesthetic / formal / political trajectories, from historical work through contemporary practitioners,” Nordeen told Hyperallergic. “Over the years, we’ve worked with some really amazing writers, often quite informally, collecting quick responses or fragments from texts not widely circulated in the US, in addition to longer essays.”
Screening notes have always been offered to provide context and provoke discussion. But it was with our fourth screening, Michael Robinson/Jack Smith, in which Michael was closely involved in the curation and screening, where things changed a bit. With that particular screening, a lot of [my] peers didn’t quite get the pairing [of Robinson and Smith]. So then [the pamphlet] also became a discursive space for me to trace out the intentionality of placing Michael’s recent works alongside [Smith’s] “No President,” which was, at that point, a seldom screened work. Since then we kept producing the zines and expanding in different ways upon that content, into production notes and visual scrap books, too.
It all culminated, Nordeen said, in a “bound reader” made to accompany the organization’s collaboration with MoMA last summer and fall. From there, the leap to online was fairly logical. “Being housed in the print publication was one platform for their circulation, but surely not the only one.”
The writing on the site mirrors the niche interests of Dirty Looks NYC while also ranging in style and tone: there are brief excerpts from a French interview with Parisian transsexual pop star Marie-France and the history of a dancing disco doll, personal reflections and scholarly essays. “Soon we’ll start posting artist videos, aggregating works from all approaches and disciplines,” Nordeen said, in addition to having a handful of regular columns (one of which, “Women On … An Ongoing Reflection on Television and Film,” by curator Jamillah James, has already begun). “The idea is to create a space where readers can check in weekly, catch up on Marie-France or Magdalena Montezuma, watch a Zackary Drucker video and read an interview with Gary Indiana” — in other words, a hub for queer film and video culture.
Of course, one of the big benefits of publishing texts online is the broadening of their reach. Nordeen explained that he looks forward to publishing screening-related works before events happen, so that viewers can walk in with a little more context. And the publishing platform moves Dirty Looks beyond NYC. “I think the most exciting element to the site, for us, is that it expands Dirty Looks NYC’s reach beyond our city, or our annual ‘Roadshow’ [a West Coast tour], he said, “so that someone in Michigan can read about Ulrike Ottinger or Chris E. Vargas.” What they’ve done in New York they’re hoping to do on the internet: find the experimental-and-queer-shaped void and fill it.