Documentation

John Cage’s work has had an immeasurable influence on 20th Century music and art, and his formal and technological innovations were tied to his desire to push the boundaries of the art world. In 1951 he initiated the first recording on magnetic tape, and in 1952 he staged a theatrical event that is considered the first Happening. His invention of the prepared piano and his work with percussion instruments led him to imagine and explore many unique and fascinating ways of structuring the temporal dimension of music.

John Cage’s compositions and performances have had a profound influence on generations of musicians and artists. In this tape, he initiates For the Third Time as author Richard Kostelanetz interviews him. “I’ve left the punctuation out, but I’ve distributed it by chance operations on the page, like an explosion,” Cage says. “You can replace the punctuation where you wish.”

The Videofreex had several experiences with the Black Panther Party, including interviewing Illinois Chapter Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton and New Haven Minister of Information Cappy Pinderhughes. In this tape, recorded on March 5th 1971, the Videofreex one-person camera crew Bart Friedman is walking the hallways of CBS, trying to find out where a video statement by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver is located. The shots are mostly close up on people’s torsos and there is some image loss, but the sound is intact. The tape has an eerie espionage feel.

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 the nuts and bolts of fundraising through benefit concerts and events in an attempt to finance support efforts related to the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial.

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 possible ramifications on the movement as a whole, some critics voice serious complaints.

China Town traces copper mining and production from an open pit mine in Nevada to a smelter in China, where the semi-processed ore is sent to be smelted and refined. Considering what it actually means to "be wired" and in turn, to be connected, in today's global economic system, the video follows the detailed production process that transforms raw ore into copper wire--in this case, the literal digging of a hole to China--and the generation of waste and of power that grows in both countries as byproduct.

"In this record of a live performance, Acconci gives physical manifestation to the subterranean regions of the artist’s mind and will, revealing the effort he must make as an artist to simultaneously convince himself and his audience. Perhaps no other piece from the early 1970s more thoroughly spells out the psychologized drama engendered by performance-based video....

In this 2006 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses his early interest in art, his family’s welcome antipathy towards commercialization, and his unconventional, anti-mainstream film practice. In particular, Cohen discusses his film This is a History of New York, and how this piece exemplifies his interest in the “territory of sensation” rather than simple visual descriptiveness. Cohen concludes by discussing the role of archiving in his practice, and how compulsive documentation of the quotidian and unexceptional can result in the empowerment of the everyday.

Though this video segment bears the title Construction Workers Rally, much more than issues of labor are addressed. On May 8th of 1970, approximately two hundred demonstrating construction workers, mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO, had attacked 1,000 high school and college students and others protesting the Kent State shootings, the American invasion of Cambodia, and the Vietnam War.

Countdown, 1995

An episode from a Lebanese TV series entitled "Image + Sound."  Each episode in this groundbreaking series is based on paralleling TV news images alongside staged events. This episode was shot in Gouraud St. in Gemayzeh in Beirut.

In a series of 1992 performances, Coco Fusco and performance co-creator Guillermo Gómez-Peña decked themselves out in primitive costumes and appeared before the public as “undiscovered AmerIndians” locked in a golden cage — an exercise in faux anthropology based on racist images of natives. Presented eight times in four different countries, these simple performances evoked various responses, the most startling being the huge numbers of people who didn’t find the idea of “natives” locked in a cage objectionable.

“The idea was to address the cultural invisibility of older women through art and through action,” the voice-over explains as this video begins. This short works offers an introduction to the Whisper Minnesota Project, which organized The Crystal Quilt performance, an event that brought together hundreds of women over 60 on a Mother’s Day in Minneapolis. As the video explains, “The Crystal Quilt is a case study in reframing notions of older women’s beauty, power, and relevance. Through it we catch glimpses of life patterns and values lost to our generation.”

Though difficult at times to understand what is happening due to audio damage, this tape provides rich historical documentation of a protest on Wall Street in May of 1971. The tape also records the energy in the air created by motivated activists who took to the streets at Columbia University in protest of the Vietnam War.

—Faye Gleisser

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, videotaped by an arrestee.

In this tape, the Videofreex record their visit with Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld, then recognized widely for his popular medical advice column, Dear Dr. Hip Pocrates, which doled out information about sex and drugs. At the time of this session in November 1969, Schoenfeld had recently published a book based on his advice column, and was also serving as a member of the editorial board of Modern Medicine.

The Embassy deals with the codes of representation used by the former Portuguese colonial power over the West African country Guinea-Bissau, and with modes of memory production. It shows a photo album depicting the perspective of the Portuguese colonist, who photographed with documentary diligence landscapes, people, architecture and monuments in Guinea-Bissau in the 1940s and 1950s.

Everglades is a project Levy began while a resident artist in Florida's Everglades National Park. The unique natural environment of the Everglades has been devastated by decades of wetlands drainage for purposes of industrial and residential development, and today it is threatened by fracking and deep water drilling. At the same time, efforts have been made to restore some of the original ecosystems through a process of re-flooding, not unlike the restoration of Lake Hula in the north of Israel.

Videofreex members Davidson Gigliotti, Bart Friedman, Skip Blumberg and Nancy Cain travel to Syracuse, New York to attend an exhibition and two-day conference featuring video art at the Everson Museum of Art held from April 4-7, 1974. More than simply recording this event known formally as “Video and the Museum,” the tape poignantly highlights the ways in which the Freex—by wielding a video camera—simultaneously become art world archivists, video collaborators, and on-the-ground reporters of culture and art in the 1970s.

Excess, 2009

A rumination via handwritten index cards and an assortment of images recalling histories and ambitions of varied film productions.

Consisting of 13 brief spots, Experience: Perception, Interpretation, Illusion features works by artists included in a Pasadena Armory exhibition. Curator Noel Korten explains that the artists in the show have all reached mid-career and are now less concerned with expanding the boundaries of contemporary art than on reflecting back on culture through their own perspectives. Artists include Karen Carsen, John Outterbridge, Michael C.

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.

Karen Finley is well known for her confrontational monologues, often performed in clubs and bars, which exploit the stereotype of the hysterical woman to address the sexual and political taboos associated with femininity. Using a variety of unusual props, such as Jello, chocolate syrup, stuffed animals, and glitter, Finley provokes her audience into thinking about a range of repressions and contradictions in contemporary society. She gained mainstream attention when Congress questioned her NEA funding in the early 1990s.

Interview by Tom Jaremba.

Richard Ross discusses his interest in photographing museums—their display of objects, frames, the entire context—in order to question our definitions of the museum. The video also covers his ongoing series of triptychs made using a child’s plastic camera, which Ross turns into “art historical soap operas” by playing off the interactions of the groupings.

Only available on the Fellows of Contemporary Art compilation.

Rare footage of a September 1970 rally honoring the late Fred Hampton, Deputy Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. One of the speakers leads the audience in a call and response.

From The Files of the Pyramid Cocktail Lounge is a series of video clips taken at the Pyramid Club, a seminal location for the East Village drag scene in the midst of the club's most influential years. While rummaging through a file cabinet full of event fliers from the Pyramid Club, an office worker in drag guides the viewer through video documentation of past performances at the club.