The Wooster Group on Screen and In Person
White Homeland Commando
dir. Elizabeth LeCompte, US, 1992, Video, 63 min.
Screening followed by a discussion between director Elizabeth LeCompte, Rebecca Cleman (EAI), and Anthony Elms (ICA).
White Homeland Commando is The Wooster Group’s skewed take on the police procedural, conceived at the start of the true-crime craze. The first totally stand-alone video by the Group, WHC plays like a transmission from a parallel universe.
The plot centers on the infiltration of a white supremacist cult by a special unit of the police force. Company members Willem Dafoe and Ron Vawter are featured as shady characters on opposite sides of the law, with Dafoe playing a ragged new cult inductee, and Vawter a jaded, hard-boiled detective. Written for the company in 1987 by Michael Kirby, the teleplay is a Structuralist narrative that interweaves the stories of eight characters – four cops and four white supremacists -- and mixes experimental theater strategies with the aesthetics of popular television crime shows like Kojak and Hill Street Blues. Kirby’s script also incorporates actual propaganda material from sources such as “The Aryan Nation Archives” and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith’s Bulletin.
Under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, working with cinematographer Ken Kobland and editor Melody London, the video is abstracted by intentional disruptions -- garishly beautiful computer animations, stuttering playback, and sound-sync delays – that invite an impressionistic viewing, akin to late-night channel surfing. The result is an indelible portrayal of the sinister violence and aggression seething within society. Broadcast just once, on public television, the video was also screened at the New York Film Festival, The Kitchen, MoMA, and was selected for the controversial “politically correct” 1993 Whitney Biennial, where it struck a disharmonic chord with the tone of much of the art on display.
Shot in various locations in New York, WHC includes original music by David Van Tieghem, and along with Dafoe and Vawter, features performances by Wooster Group members Peyton Smith, Anna Köhler, Jeff Webster, Nancy Reilly, Michael Stumm, and Kate Valk.
This program has been supported through a grant
from the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation
Special thanks to Clay Hapaz, FringeArts, The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)