Tuned In, Turned On! Videofreex Tape the World

Videofreex

Tuned In, Turned On!  Videofreex Tape the World

Formed in 1969 at the legendary Woodstock Music Festival by David Cort and Parry Teasdale, who met while taping the events with the newly available Portapak video equipment, the Videofreex (also known as "the Freex") were one of the very first video collectives. After working together to pitch a program to the major broadcasting station CBS, they toured the country interviewing counter-cultural figures of the day, including Fred Hampton, a leader of the Black Panther party, and Abbie Hoffman, so called leader of the Yippies. The group quickly grew to include ten members: Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, David Cort, Bart Friedman, Davidson Gigliotti, Chuck Kennedy, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Parry Teasdale, Carol Vontobel, and Ann Woodward. This larger group, based at a loft in lower Manhattan, worked together to tape events, mount art happenings and installations, and train others in the use of this new medium.

In 1971 the group moved together, some as couples, others singly, to upstate New York, taking over a 17-room former boarding house, Maple Tree Farm, in Lanesville, NY, which became host to an ever-changing crowd of radical media makers. The Freex installed their video equipment, and eventually erected a transmitter that could broadcast the signal from their living room/broadcast studio to the local community, so becoming one of the earliest pirate TV stations. The programming reflected the collective's diverse activities and interests, from cooking lessons and interviews with local shop owners and citizens, to coverage of local and national political events, accompanied by live phone-ins and two-way discussions. The energetic and cheerful interactions with their near-neighbours, broadcast alongside political happenings in the wider world, were typical of the Videofreex way of working. The Videofreex lived together for ten years, and in that time amassed more that 1,500+ tapes, before moving on to pursue other projects.

As part of the Video Data Bank's ongoing mission to preserve and archive important historical video,  VDB took on the Videofreex archive in 2001, after amassing all of the tapes that were stored in various attics, cellars and garages in upstate New York. By the time the tapes had been collected from their various temporary resting places, the collection numbered above 1,400 tapes, mostly on the now-defunct half-inch open reel video format. Some were infested with mould, and the majority were unwatched for more than three decades. By the time the boxes were unloaded at VDB's Chicago location, the story of this legendary collective of counter-cultural hippies and pirate TV activists had spread among the VDB team, and we were committed to doing what we could to save these precious images.

This 70-minute program highlights some of the important early video work that forms the Videofreex Archive, including videos that have been preserved as part of an ongoing project that seeks to ensure they remain accessible for generations to come.  Many more remain to be preserved.

Among the featured works are a number of excerpts shot in the late 1960s and early '70s by the Freex, including portraits of leading radicals from the era of the Vietnam War such as Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman, Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and the rise of the feminist movement in the U.S., as well as interviews with demonstrators and Hells Angels, early video erotica, social events, experimental video art, and live footage of a Videofreex broadcast from the studio in their Lanesville communal home.

Curated by Abina Manning, Director of Video Data Bank.

 

Chicago Travelogue: The Weathermen, 1969, 6:08 excerpt from 22:30, U.S., b&w, sound

Chicago Travelogue: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Yippies, 1969, 4:50 excerpt from 40:30, U.S., b&w, sound

Fred Hampton: Black Panthers in Chicago, 1969, 6:48 excerpt from 24:00, U.S., b&w, sound

Davidson's Jail Tape, 1971, 8:06 excerpt from 32:31, U.S., b&w, sound

Women's Liberation Demonstration NYC, 1970, 5:39 excerpt from 23:20, U.S., b&w, sound

Hells Angels' Run, 1970, 6:35 excerpt from 15:30, U.S., b&w, sound

Money, 1970/71, 2:35, U.S., b&w, sound

Circo dell'Arte (Circus Arts), 1969, 6:40, U.S., b&w, sound

After the Bar with Tony and Michael, 1971, 4:32 excerpt from 56:10, U.S., b&w, sound

Mes & Youse, 1971, 4:20, U.S., b&w, sound

Shirley Clarke and the Camera, 1971, 3:09 excerpt from 32:50, U.S., b&w, sound

Lanesville Overview 1, 1972, 10:26 excerpt from 32:18, U.S., b&w, sound

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Included Titles
LISTING STYLE:

An interview with a group of people shot in October 1969, some of whom were involved in The Weathermen’s "Days of Rage" actions. As those present recount the significance of the actions, and the…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, Crime or Violence, Documentation, Politics

Shot in October 1969, this tape gives an inside view of the workings of late-sixties radical groups and the debates going on within their ranks. At a meeting of Yippies, there is a discussion about…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, Documentation, History, Politics

The Videofreex conducted this interview with Fred Hampton, the Deputy Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, in October 1969, just over a month before he was killed by the…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, African-American, Crime or Violence, Death and Dying, History, Interview, Race

Footage from the May Day 1971 events in Washington DC. Davidson, a Videofreex member, gets arrested, and what follows is rarely seen footage of the inside of the detainment bus and the jail cell,…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, Documentation, History

Ten thousand women marched down New York's Fifth Avenue on August 26th, 1970, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The march…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, Documentation, Feminism, Film or Videomaking, Gender, History, Labor

Videofreex

Hells Angels' Run

1970 | 00:15:30

In this tape, shot in August 1970, a number of Hells Angels are interviewed on the street in New York City. They talk about their bikes and their preparations for a “run”, and their reactions to the…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Crime or Violence, Documentation, Expedition/Travel, Media Analysis

Videofreex

Money

1970 | 00:02:35

Taped on Prince Street in Soho, New York City, Skip Blumberg creates a one-word performance. Shouting the word "money" over and over, he attracts the attention of New York's finest. The video crew…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Consumer culture, Crime or Violence, Culture Jamming, Film or Videomaking, Performance, Politics, Video History, City, Art Collective, Technology

A troupe of male and female jugglers and musicians perform for a growing crowd in Central Park, New York, led by Hovey Burgess and Judy Finelli.  The sun is shining, and the troupe are skilful,…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Body, City, Love, Music, Performance

An early example of video erotica from the Videofreex. A group of naked people lounge around smoking and listening to music. A male and female couple is making love on the floor in a room full of…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Body, Documentation, Film or Videomaking, Sexuality

Videofreex

Me's and Youse

1971 | 00:04:20

A wonderful and humorous example of early image processing, Parry Teasdale and Carol Vontobel perform to camera as their faces are morphed together, forming an image of one person.  The exercise is…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Film or Videomaking, Humor, Image Processing, Performance, Art Collective, Technology

Parry Teasdale, David Cort and Chuck Kennedy visit The Kitchen in New York looking for Shirley Clarke, and bump into Steina and Woody Vasulka who are overseeing a show in progress.  A few doors down…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Experimental Film, Film or Videomaking, Future, Video History, City, Art Collective, Artist Spaces

"Between March 1972 and February 1977, the Videofreex aired 258 television broadcasts from a home-built studio and jerry-rigged transmitter in an old boarding house they rented in the tiny Catskill…

Collections: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles
Tags: Activism, Documentation, Family, Film or Videomaking, Future, Television, Portrait

Exhibitions + Festivals

WRO Biennial, Wroclaw, Poland, 2012