Decent Men

1977/2013, 70 min, color and b&w, sound

Decent Men, created over a period of almost forty years, is a video collage built around Ramos' powerful extended monologue on his eighteen months in federal prison for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. As Ramos, a compelling raconteur, tells the story of his interactions with prisoners and guards as a 23-year-old draft resister, his charged performance narrative is interrupted with vintage cartoons that feature grotesque racial stereotypes. Ramos' stories of prison life are overlaid with footage from the artist's early performances and his 1977 video About Media, which addressed the media's coverage of President Carter's amnesty for draft resisters. The result is an extraordinary first-hand narrative of Ramos' prison experiences within the cultural, racial and political climate of America in the late 1960s.

Ramos began this work in 1977, but left the narrative—and the video—unfinished for almost forty years. In 2013, Ramos, who produced and edited several of his early video pieces at EAI in the 1970s, returned to EAI to revisit this unfinished work. Four decades after beginning the piece, Ramos recorded a new performance element at EAI, picking up and finishing his story, which was integrated into the now-completed Decent Men.

A video by Tony Ramos begun in 1977 and finished in 2013 at Electronic Arts Intermix. Editing: Tony Ramos and Trevor Shimizu. Spinning Segment: Joan Logue.