Peggy and Fred and Pete

1988, 23 min, sepia, sound

Peggy and Fred in Hell, Thornton's ongoing and open-ended video series, 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, 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 politics of the image, Thornton's rigorously experimental oeuvre has forged a unique and powerful syntax.

In the installment Peggy and Fred and Pete, Thornton integrates eclectic appropriated texts into her narrative realm, including the soundtrack from Roman Polanski's The Tenant and a fragment of silent film "introducing 'Pete the Penguin.'" Accompanied by spookily atmospheric "film music," Peggy and Fred wander through a series of ominous landscapes, which stand in counterpoint to the absurd pathos of the penguin footage. For Thornton, the media image oscillates between presence and absence; these disparate scenarios appear as traces or clues, standing in for something lost.