One of the many, many things I miss about Brooklyn is Freddy’s Bar. This storied speak easy represents the best combination of dive bar and underground cultural mecca. Unfortunately, Freddy’s very existence is currently being threatened by Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project which, among other things, plans on bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and making tons of money while ruining the spirit of this fine city in the process (read more about this at Fans for Fair Play).
There are many great things about Freddy’s and a million reasons to save it, but one that I want to focus on in particular is the underground video art of its manager Donald O’Finn. Having a drink at Freddy’s is not only more pleasant and significantly cheaper than any where else in NYC, but you also get a lot more than a few drinks for your visit. The television on the wall behind the bar often offers an ongoing collage of clips from various films, the pacing of which is simply mesmerizing. I was originally attracted by the videos because of their use of innumerable clips from obscure b-movies. I found myself trying to name the movie, or find some kind of reference so that I could somehow get my hands on it. After watching these videos a number of times, I began to notice a some thematic patterns for these collages. They were not meaningless montages (is there such a thing?) but rather narrative sequences that tell a series of compelling stories. In short, brilliantly imaginative stuff!
Donald O’Finn is the artist behind this genius and the bio on his website gives us a bit more:
Since 1982 Donald O’Finn has used TV and video imagery as found objects to repurpose, constructing what he calls “Narratives from Appropriated material”. The village voice “Best Of” referred to his “feverishly edited encyclopedically strange video collages” as “lively rivers, a liquid experience.” Stating that “his editing is so hyper-intuitive that the culture shocks and time warps gel into a state of half vertigo and half trance.” Mr O’Finn considers his product much closer to poetry or painting, than to film or TV. His videos have enjoyed exhibitions and screenings at various cult venues, as well as the Hershhorn Museum of Art in Washington D.C., and both Lincoln Center and the Anthology Film Archive in N.Y. City, performing with the multi media audio-visual collective known as rev.99.
I recently did a search for Donald O’Finn on YouTube to see what I could come up with and, as usual, my efforts were quickly rewarded. Take a look at some of his videos and be sure to patronize Freddy’s Bar the next time you’re in town -you are certain to be greatly rewarded.
Please note you can see much higher resolution versions of these videos on Donald O’Finn’s site here.