Visual Culture Program - "Peggy and Fred in Hell"
Media artist Leslie Thornton’s video series, Peggy and Fred in Hell (95 minutes), thirty-three years in the making, 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 two children who were, 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 nature of the image, Thornton’s rigorously experimental oeuvre has forged a unique and powerful syntax. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum called Peggy and Fred in Hell both “highly idiosyncratic and deeply creepy,” and “the most exciting recent work in the American avant-garde, a saga that raises questions about everything while making everything seem very strange.”
Thornton is the first artist-in-residence in the new Caltech-Huntington Program in Visual Culture. She is considered a pioneer of contemporary media aesthetics, working at the borders and limits of cinema, video, and digital forms. In 2018, Thornton was an Artist in Residence at CERN, where she will return for a second residency in 2019. Her work focuses on the effects of technology as it marks the traversal of time and as it shapes the imaginary space of the spectator. A Guggenheim fellow and recipient of several Rockefeller fellowships, she has exhibited widely at venues such as documenta, MoMA, Centre Pompidou, Vienna Secession, and the Whitney Biennial. Her recent focus has been on the question, “What is an event?”—a line of inquiry she is currently exploring at Caltech.
About the Visual Culture Program
The Caltech-Huntington Program in Visual Culture, which is funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and based in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), features new undergraduate course offerings, guest lecturers, and other programming to foster conversations between humanists and scientists. Its activities are organized by HSS and other Caltech faculty in collaboration with scholars at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.