Steinbeck Remixed: Inventing the Californias in Classic Hollywood is a 3-part event exploring representations of California History in John Steinbeck film adaptations. In addition to film trailers, the program draws on John Steinbeck’s rarely seen home movies from his expedition through the Gulf of California. Steinbeck Remixed surveys historical narratives of California as ripe with resources and opportunities, and how these narratives overdetermined our understandings of California. The indoor afternoon panel includes screening trailers and features leading film scholars discussing Steinbeck film adaptations and his home movies. Following the film panel is a dedicated gallery tour by one of the curators of the 2022-2023 MexiCali Biennial exhibit Land of Milk & Honey. The day’s program culminates in an outdoor screening of Steinbeck films remixed to a live soundscape by DJs from both Texas and California.
2:30–3:45 pm Scholar Panel & Screening
4:00 pm Curator-led Gallery Tour
6:30–8:00 pm Outdoor Screening & Reception
The Steinbeck Remixed program begins at 2:30 with a panel and screening of trailers and clips from John Steinbeck’s home movies and film adaptations. During the panel, scholars Catherine L. Benamou, Anthony Macias, and Laura Isabel Serna, will reflect on historical narratives affixed to Alta and Baja California—as ripe with resources and opportunities, and how these narratives have overdetermined our understanding of California. While films from this era may display technical mastery, they often reflect and construct racist representations of marginalized peoples. Thus, rather than screening the films in full and reactivating the violence of misrepresentation, our program screens the films’ trailers. Trailers like those developed for the adaptation of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and films that would emerge in the decade to come, like Border Incident and Seven Cities of Gold offer an opportunity to study their narrative construction, visual language, and dissemination. We explore how film creators utilized the medium to naturalize state violence, colonial settlement, resource extraction, and racial hierarchies.
After the film panel, we will be given a dedicated tour of the gallery with curators Rosalía Romero and Ed Gomez who will share insights on Land of Milk & Honey. This traveling multidisciplinary arts and culture program features works by over 40 artists whose works focus on concepts of agriculture in the regions of California and Mexico. Drawing inspiration from John Steinbeck’s portrayal of the region as a corrupted Eden, the exhibitions and programs of the 2022-2023 MexiCali Biennial question ethical, cultural, and regional practices related to foodways and the venture from seed to table. The biblical reference of a “land of milk and honey” first became associated with California as a tool for promoting the state as a land of opportunity; a destination for those in search of a better way of life – a terra firma that would provide sustenance and abundance. This boosterism also served as an ethos that fueled “Manifest Destiny” and resulted in land grabs, ecological destruction, and social injustices. The guided tour will lead viewers through the exhibition that features artists’ views of multi-layered topics associated with agriculture including cultural relationships to food, associations with identity and place, and historical and political concerns.
Steinbeck Remixed culminates in an evening outdoor screening and soundscape experience with local vendors. The premiere of “Steinbeck Remixed”, a 10-minute multi-channel video work by artist and program curator Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas, will be screened on the façade of The Cheech. The looping visuals will continue from 6:30pm to 8:00pm, offering the video remix as a visual opportunity to unmask historical constructions. The visual remix with live sound help us to challenge the films and interrupt film representation of the 1940s and 1950s, in an effort to imagine and experience different futures. This screening installation—a celebration of new visions—is free and open to the public and will be accompanied by a live DJ set by Chulita Vinyl Club – Austin and Santa Ana Chapters. The outdoor event is free, family-friendly CoVid-conscious. We invite the public to bring their family and friends to experience Ramos-Barajas’ film installation, accompanied by DJs from Chulita Vinyl Club—made up of women, gender-non-conforming, non-binary, LGBTQ+ and self-identifying people of color. This event brings together Chulita Vinyl Club’s declaration that “¡El Disco Es Cultura!” with cinematic re-visions by filmmaker and scholar Ramos-Barajas. Join us to enliven and celebrate The Cheech Center in Downtown Riverside, CA. TICKETS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR THE OUTDOOR EVENT.
Borderless Cultures, founded by Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas and Annette M. Rodríguez, has hosted film screenings and discussions with independent indigenous and Latinx film makers. We greatly appreciate the support of the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of History and we are grateful for the invitation to participate in the 2022-2023 MexiCali Biennial. We offer thanks to our many collaborators, including MexiCali Biennial curators: Ed Gomez, Luis G. Hernandez, Rosalía Romero, and April Lillard-Gomez, Enid Baxter-Ryce; The Cheech staff: María Esther Fernández, Artistic Director of The Cheech Center, Maryana Carreon, and Annery Sanchez; also, the participating scholars, and The Chulita Vinyl Club.