Guerilla Television Lexicon
- Compiled by Carolyn Faber And Jakob Jakobsen
A San Francisco-based collective of artists and architects working from 1968 to 1978. Ant Farm’s activity was distinctly interdisciplinary—combining architecture, performance, media, happenings, sculpture, and graphic design. With works that functioned as art, social critique, and pop anthropology, Ant Farm tore into the cultural fabric of post-World War II, Vietnam-era America and became one of the first groups to address television’s pervasive presence in everyday life. As graphic artists, Ant Farm contributed to numerous underground publications, including Radical Software, and designed Michael Shamberg’s Guerrilla Television (1971). Ant Farm members included Chip Lord, Doug Michels, Hudson Marquez, and Curtis Schreier. The main videoworks of the Ant Farm are Media Burn (1975) and The Eternal Frame (1975).
[Source: Video Data Bank, Chicago]
Chicago Edit Center/Center for New Television
The Center for New Television (CNTV) grew out of the Chicago Edit Center to become a hub of independent video production in Chicago. It was the focal point of Chicago’s growing and vibrant independent videomaking community, providing production equipment and facilities, and administering grants.
Chicago Area Videomakers Coalition
A group of videomakers in Chicago formed the coalition in 1977. Judy Hoffman, Lily Ollinger, and Denise Zaccardi organized the first meeting in 1977. This group consisted of most of the active videomakers in Chicago, who met for monthly meetings incorporating screenings and production workshops.
[Source: “Alternative Television: A Short History of Early Video Activism in Chicago” by Sara Chapman]
Howard Wise Gallery
Howard Wise was an innovative art dealer and a visionary supporter of video as an art form. His seminal embrace and fostering of video artists and projects contributed to contemporary art history. From 1960 to 1970, the Howard Wise Gallery on 57th Street in New York was a locus for kinetic art and multimedia works that explored the nexus of art and technology. The gallery featured several groundbreaking exhibitions, including On the Move (1964), Lights in Orbit (1967), and the landmark 1969 TV as a Creative Medium. The first exhibition dedicated to video (or television) in the United States, TV as a Creative Medium included artists such as Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Frank Gillette, and Aldo Tambellini. In addition to defining an emerging artistic movement, this influential exhibition revealed the need for new paradigms to support artists working in video. In 1970 Wise closed the gallery to lay the groundwork for Electronic Arts Intermix, which he founded the following year to foster creative pursuits in the nascent video underground.
[Source: Electronic Arts Intermix]
Image Union is the longest running showcase of independent film and video on television, now in its 29th year. Its weekly 1/2-hour broadcasts feature new and old work by independent film and videomakers, obscure and well known. Tom Weinberg created the show and produced it for 12 years.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States. While the term broadcast covers radio, PBS only covers TV; for radio the United States has National Public Radio, American Public Media, and Public Radio International. PBS was founded in 1969 and commenced broadcasting on Monday 5 October 1970. It is a non-profit, private corporation, which is owned collectively by its member stations. However, its operations are largely funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a separate entity funded by the U.S. federal government.
Founded in 1969 by Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, and Ira Schneider among others, Raindance was a self-described “countercultural think-tank” that embraced video as an alternative form of cultural communication. The name “Raindance” was a play on words for “cultural R & D” (research and development). Influenced by the communications theories of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, the collective produced a data bank of tapes and writings that explored the relation of cybernetics, media, and ecology. From 1970 to 1974, Raindance published the seminal video journal Radical Software (initially edited by Beryl Korot and Phyllis Gershuny), which provided a network of communications for the emerging alternative video movement, with a circulation of 5,000. In 1971, Shamberg wrote Guerrilla Television, a summary of the group’s principles and a blueprint for the decentralization of television. The original Raindance collective dispersed in the mid-70s.
Consumer video cameras first became available to the public around 1968, with the release of the ½” reel-to-reel Sony Portapak. Notwithstanding its relative affordability (approximately $1500), the immense importance of the Portapak was due to specific technical qualities that differentiated it from both film and video-based television.
While video was most obviously a less expensive medium to work with than film (due to the cheapness of tape stock and the absence of developing costs), videomakers were more attracted to video for other qualities particular to the new technology. Of major importance was the fact that video could be played back immediately. A cameraperson or crew could record a tape and then play it back either in the viewfinder on the site, or for a larger audience through a television set. This meant that the people being taped could immediately see how they were being represented on the tape. Editing could be accomplished quickly if necessary through an in-camera edit, which involves recording, rewinding through unwanted footage, and starting taping again at a point that cuts well with the previous footage. Video reels were usually thirty minutes long, which allowed for longer takes. This meant that it was much more likely that the full length of an event could be recorded without needing to switch reels. Also important was the fact that the eyepiece did not have to be held to the camera operator’s eye. This meant that he or she could maintain eye contact with the subject during an interview, only needing to glance in the viewfinder occasionally to check the framing of the shots. This substantially changed the character of interviews. The low cost of tapes and the ability to re-record onto them meant that a videomaker did not have to make decisions beforehand about whether an event would be worth documenting. For these reasons, video was extremely useful in shooting live, unpredictable events and documentaries.
[Source: Alternative Television: A Short History of Early Video Activism in Chicago, Sara Chapman, 2005]
The 90’s was an award-winning series broadcast from 1989-1994, and on 250 PBS stations at its peak. 52 one-hour weekly shows were produced. Rooted in the production style and tactics of TVTV, The 90’s engaged some of TVTV’s original members, along with hundreds of independent producers to create an unprecedented showcase of independent work from around the world.
TV Lab (at WNET)
WNET is one of New York’s PBS stations. “The TV Lab was established in 1972 to explore television’s uncharted territories; it quickly became a focal point for video artists and technicians interested in developing television’s potential as an art form through the creation of highly personal works. As a first step, the Lab initiated a series of Artist-In-Residence programs to enable video artists, choreographers, painters and graphic artists to explore the uses of tools such as portable tape equipment, synthesizers, lasers and computers.”
[Source: Experimental TV Center]
TVTV (short for Top Value Television) was a pioneering video collective founded in 1972 by Allen Rucker, Michael Shamberg, Tom Weinberg, and Megan Williams. Over the years, more than thirty “guerrilla video” makers were participants in TVTV productions. They included members of the Ant Farm, Chip Lord and Doug Michels; Videofreex, Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, Chuck Kennedy, Parry Teasdale. They pioneered the use of independent video based on wanting to change society and have a good time inventing new and then-revolutionary media, ½” Sony Portapak video equipment, and later embracing the ¾” video format.
Within a concentrated period of four years, TVTV produced nearly 15 hours of innovative video, forging a style that, though often criticized, was hailed as the documentary’s new wave. Selecting sacred cows as sacrificial victims to their satire, TVTV tackled power-seekers in the world of politics (Four More Years, Gerald Ford’s America), religion (Lord of the Universe), sports (Superbowl), and entertainment (TVTV looks at the Oscars).
[Source: Deidre Boyle: Subject to Change, 1995 & Wikipedia]
Videofreex, one of the first video collectives, was founded in 1969 by David Cort, Curtis Ratcliff and Parry Teasdale, after David and Parry met each other, video cameras in hand, at the Woodstock Music Festival. Working out of a loft in lower Manhattan, the group’s first major project was producing a live and tape TV presentation for the CBS network, “The Now Show,” for which they traveled the country, interviewing countercultural figures such as Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. The group soon grew to ten full-time members – including Chuck Kennedy, Nancy Cain, Skip Blumberg, Davidson Gigliotti, Carol Vontobel, Bart Friedman and Ann Woodward – and produced tapes, installations and multimedia events. The Videofreex trained hundreds of makers in this brand new medium though the group’s Media Bus project.
In 1971 the Freex moved to a 17-room, former boarding house called Maple Tree Farm in Lanesville, NY, operating one of the earliest media centers. Their innovative programming ranged from artists’ tapes and performances to behind-the-scenes coverage of national politics and alternate culture. They also covered their Catskill Mountain hamlet, and in early 1972 they launched the first pirate TV station, Lanesville TV. An exuberant experiment with two-way, interactive broadcasting, it used live phone-ins and stretched cameras to the highway, transmitting whatever the active minds of the Freex coupled with their early video gear could share with their rural viewers. During the decade that the Freex were together, this pioneer video group amassed an archive of 1,500+ raw tapes and edits. Reduced funding in the late 1970s forced the collective to disperse.
[Source: Video Data Bank, Chicago and Wikipedia]
Videopolis was a community video access project founded by journalist Anda Korsts. It was one of Chicago’s first video collectives. The main focus of Videopolis was improving the community through access to equipment. The group tried to acquire as much equipment as possible, make it available to the public, and teach people how to use it. In addition, the group made their own tapes and documented the activities of community groups, labor unions, theater groups, and artists. In late 1972, the group’s focus for the coming year was declared to be “experimentation with five uses of tape: education, community organization, arts documentation, historical documentation, and archiving.”
An important area of Videopolis’ activities was supporting women in video and film. The group would collect pieces by women from all over the country and submit them to festivals for a program titled Women Doing Video. This program eventually gained some corporate sponsorship and was then called the Women’s Video Festival. Much of the work dealt with issues related to women’s rights, such as tapes about women who had gotten illegal abortions, a national lesbian conference, the making of a centerfold, the Miss California pageant, chronicling a childbirth, etc
Another project of Videopolis, funded by the Illinois Arts Council, was to document a school of artists called the Chicago Imagists. While this type of project would historically have involved inviting the artists to a television studio to shoot and interview them, portable video technology allowed the videomakers to shoot in the artists’ studios instead. While this type of technique has become standard in even the driest PBS-style documentaries, it was a major breakthrough at the time.
[Source: “Alternative Television: A Short History of Early Video Activism in Chicago” by Sara Chapman]
WTTW Channel 11, Chicago’s first educational television station, began broadcasting in 1955. A group of civic-minded leaders formed the Chicago Educational Television Association (CETA) to lobby for, create, and fund Chicago’s educational station. It became a PBS station in 1970. WTTW is one of 3 PBS stations serving the Chicago area.
[Sources: WTTW and Wikipedia]