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Noam Gonick: No Safe Words

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 27, 2010

Heterosexual sports meets gay pride in Noam Gonick‘s short video No Safe Words, which is embedded above. This work was originally meant to be seen as a multichannel installation piece, but I think it plays just fine as a single video playing on a computer monitor. Presented as a generic sports promotional video complete with fast-paced music, screaming announcers, bold graphics and multiple screens, No Safe Words reveals a darker, totalitarian bent to such “fun” activities such as half-naked men being bound and waterboarded.

The first torture sequence in which one of the players has his jersey ripped off, then is held down while being bound and having alcohol poured all over his body reminded me of the infamous mustard hazing scene in Kenneth Anger‘s seminal Scorpio Rising. In that scene, during a Halloween party, a man is held down, stripped and mustard poured all over his genitals. However, Anger has always insisted that the Brooklyn motorcycle gang he was filming was 100% heterosexual and that their girlfriends were just out of camera range during the activities. Boys will be boys!

Shirtless men on a football field being waterboarded

Amidst the sporting/torture event that Gonick has staged, he cuts in scenes from a gay pride parade held in Toronto. The parade sequences include some of the more outrageous type of revelers you might see at one of these types of events, e.g. men walking down the street wearing assless chaps, along with the police ominously herding people along. Police would clearly provide safety at any large gathering of this sort, but Gonick makes their authoritative presence appear menacing by making connections to the authoritative types administering the torture during the game sequences.

Actually, on the video’s official Vimeo page, Gonick has posted up a lengthy review of the installation written by Francisco-Fernando Granados, who really gets into all the nitty-gritty details of what’s going on in the video.

This is the first video I’ve seen by Gonick since his feature film Hey, Happy! opened the the 2001 New York Underground Film Festival. That film is available on DVD to rent or buy. Gonick has only just recently posted several videos to Vimeo that I’m looking forward to going through.