Art Collective

The word-based art and performances crafted by world-renowned artist Alison Knowles (b.1933) are central to the 1960s international Fluxus movement and its enduring legacy. Describing her experience as a student at Pratt University in the 1950s where she learned from Richard Lindner and Adolf Gottlieb, Knowles recalls her transition from Abstract Expressionist painting to the chance operations initiated by John Cage and Bertolt Brecht.

Julie Ault is an artist, curator, and founding member of the artist collective Group Material, which has organized exhibitions on themes such as the U.S.’s involvement in Central America, AIDS, education, and mass consumerism. Her exhibitions question traditional gallery and museum systems by asking “how is culture made and for whom?”

Interview by Michael Crane.

The Videofreex tape a group of young people working on a farm run by Chris Locke and his wife in Shandaken, NY.  After learning how to take care of the chickens, they are taught how to kill and pluck one.  Later they sit down for a communal dinner, and one of the group exclaims "Mmmmm, tastes good!"

 

Stephen Varble (1946-1984) staged gender-confounding costume performances on the streets of 1970s Manhattan, and he became infamous for his anti-commercial disruptions of galleries, banks, and boutiques. In 1978, he retreated from this public work to focus on the making of an epic, unfinished piece of video art, Journey to the Sun, until his death in the first days of 1984. Lush, ribald, and unorthodox, the video mixed non-narrative costume performances with a surrealist fable of a messianic martyr, the Warbler.

Matthew Coolidge is a founder and director of The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), an organization dedicated to raising awareness about how land is apportioned, used and perceived by its inhabitants. Through exhibitions, publications, and guided tours, Coolidge and the CLUI seek to foster and encourage a heightened sense of awareness of natural surroundings. In this interview, Coolidge defines a ‘land art spillover effect,’ in which the perceived significance of the landscape seems to increase the closer people get to a piece of environmental art.

In 1975, the Feminist Studio Workshop (I was a member) at the Woman’s Building in LA, the Women’s Interart Center in New York City, and another feminist organization in Washington DC, attempted to set up a video exchange among feminist art organizations. This was the first videoletter on our end. I don’t know if another one was ever made.

The videoletter is a tour of the Woman’s Building. Pam McDonald, with microphone in hand, another workshop member, and myself, served as guides through the building. It was shot with a black and white video portopack.

This video captures the playfulness of the Videofreex as they frolic in the first snow of 1971. With joyful excitement, David, Bart, Chuck, Nancy and Skip pass the camera back and forth to explore the possibilities for video under the new weather condition offered by flurries. While Nancy tapes, David and Bart create fictional characters stranded after a plane crash. Annie, Francis and the resident dog, Mushroom, join the group for further snowy shenanigans. Later, Bart tries to interview the local snowplow driver for an episode of Lanesville TV, but without success.

In a radical action like Nam June Paik destroying a violin, and rolling up in bandages the bodies of the players in in a concert by Yoko Ono, the international avant-garde group Fluxus changed not only art, but the concept of it.

A two-part study of the self-sustaining lifestyle of a communal farm in Vermont. 

This extensive interview with California artist Doug Hall (b. 1944) provides unique insight into the culture and politics of experimental artistic production during the 1970s. Discussing the founding of the performance group TR Uthco, Hall offers context for his contribution to the field of video art, and shares stories of his collaborations with Ant Farm, Videofreex, and others. Ranging from his early years as an art student, to his romance with artist Diane Andrews Hall, to reflections on technology in art, this interview importantly extends the discourse surrounding topics of archive, performativity, and autobiography—subjects that have come to define the contours of video art today. 

Stephen Varble began Journey to the Sun as a series of performances with projected slides in 1978. After becoming notorious for unauthorized costume performances on Soho streets in the mid 1970s, Varble receded from his public persona at this time. Deriving from his identification with his idol, the reclusive actress Greta Garbo, and informed by the spiritual practice of Subud, Varble began writing an allegorical epic about a musician, the Grey Crowned Warbler, who undergoes tribulation and metamorphosis on a journey to transcendence.

The performance artist Stephen Varble spent the last five years of his life working on an epic, unfinished performance-turned-video titled Journey to the Sun (1978-1983). Only partially complete and under constant revision, this complex work combined Varble’s history of making costumes for performances with his fantastic stories involving metamorphosis and martyrdom. In 1982, Varble decided to make a “prelude” to Journey to the Sun, combining existing footage with new video taken in Riverside Park in New York City.

“Trolling for news we call it,” says Bart Friedman a minute into this video, as he pushes down a road the Lanesville TV News Buggy – a baby carriage filled with video equipment, spilling over with wires. The buggy allows for easy transportation of equipment as the Videofreex make their way throughout Lanesville, interviewing residents on their daily activity. Although fairly ordinary – a visit to the lake, a small bit about a neighbor’s new electric golf cart, and an introduction to a newborn baby – the footage has an air of genuineness and all of the interactions are amicable.

On April 6th, 1974, this episode of the Videofreex’s production of Lanesville TV aired, including four segments: a choreographed piece by the Elaine Summers Dancers, a Vietnam tape titled “Where do you get your money?,” several phone conversations with local audience members, and a comical interview with a fictional fish, Sam Trouta.

Timely concerns about the future of video, artists’ complicity in the money making system of the ‘establishment,’ and the effect of the camera’s presence on personal encounters, is discussed and debated in this late night video produced by David Cort, Chuck Kennedy, and Skip Blumberg.

A Videofreex performance.  Bart Friedman plays the pump organ and David Cort sings.  He asks Bart to "Play something that I can laugh to," and much laughter ensues.  Then, "because of American society," there is a sad song, and much wailing ensues.

Marbles, 1998

Meatballs - (Bill Murray + leading cast) = Marbles. A Hollywood classic re-visited and re-edited until our hero is no longer in sight.

This title is also available on Animal Charm Videoworks: Volume 2, Hot Mirror Mix.

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. 

Less than two minutes long, this short tape makes playful and surreal use of video’s editing capabilities. Set to a sped-up version of The Band’s “The Weight” – complete with the falsetto vocals, and accelerated tempo that come with time manipulation on records – is a series of rapid, alternating washes and split-image cuts overlaying and juxtaposing the faces of the freex upon one another. Male faces and female faces fuse, the exact identity of the individuals becoming dissolving into ambiguity.

Money, 1970

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 attempt to explain to the policemen that there is no public disorder as the streets were empty when they began to tape.

The video is an unwitting early example of the reaction of the state to the use of video cameras on the streets.

This tape documents Nancy Cain’s birthday party and captures the inner workings of the Videofreex’s social ethos. As pipes are refilled and passed around, and the music of Aretha Franklin and the Beatles croons in the background, members of the Videofreex take turns with the camera to experiment with the effects of light, proximity, and focus in the smoke-filled room. Activity includes brief clips of a television talk show host discussing current voting turn out,  longer segments of close-ups of Nancy’s face, and Parry Teasdale’s attempt to continuously blow smoke into the viewfinder.

Hirsch’s most ambitious film to date and the pinnacle of his trilogy, Nothing New depicts the epic rescue mission of a man whose parachute is caught on electricity power lines. Involving hundreds of participants in a desolate field facing the Jordanian border in the Jordan Valley of Israel, this communal cinematic endeavor aims to re-unite, if only for a brief moment, the collective spirit of the socialist Kibbutz movement in Israel, a movement that has undergone significant ideological modifications.

In this interview with Melika Bass, a Chicago-based filmmaker and installation artist, Camilo Restrepo discusses how he became a filmmaker and how he chooses to document his native home of Colombia. After pursuing a degree in painting, Restrepo got a “regular job” but found himself pulled back towards creative pursuits. Equipped with a Super 8 camera, he set out to document his home honestly, and without an excess of materials.

Rome N.Y., 1971

A look at the town of Rome N.Y., including an arts panel visit to the Art and Community Center.