Portapak Conversation


1973 | 00:08:25 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 4:3 | 1/2" open reel video

Collection: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles

Tags: Film or Videomaking, Gender, TV production, Technology, Television

This eight-minute video is part experimental video art, part sketch comedy routine, and part informational lesson on the advantages and disadvantages of owning Sony's latest video technology. In it, David and Carol participate in a brilliantly theatrical, seemingly improvisational conversation, in which each one adopts the specific identity and perspective associated with a particular video technology: David plays the part of the Sony Camera AVC 3400, while Carol takes on the personality of the Sony Portapak AV3400. Caught in a lover’s quarrel, the two banter and argue, each speaking from their perspective as a machine. Carol asserts, “Sync, your power, your ability is dependent on me…you’re just eyes to me camera.” David retorts, “I am immediate, I say yes to life,” eventually jabbing, “You eat tape like a pig.”

Later, their debate gets more heated, playing upon the sexual innuendo that their gendered voices and attitudes embody. Carol criticizes David, the camera, claiming, “your ego is so aggressive and offensive,” to which David replies to the portapak, “you’re overheating all the time…I’m just zippy zappy.” Since each thinks the other is inferior to his or her own model and function, David and Carol’s narcissistic mode of argumentation serves as an excellent learning tool: the viewer learns quite a bit about the use, cost, pit falls, and applications of each machine in 1971.

Portapak Conversation is a quintessential Videofreex video—playful and educational, creative yet accessible—all the while, consistently showcasing intelligent video work, as seen with the superimposing of David and Carol’s faces onto the objects they claim to represent, a move that anticipates the later development of video installations by artists such as Tony Oursler that make use of projected animations on inanimate objects.

—Faye Gleisser

Pricing Information

Additional Formats/Uses
Request an Exhibition Quote Request an Archival Quote

Please contact info@vdb.org or visit http://www.vdb.org/content/prices-formats with any questions about the license types listed here.

Exhibitions + Festivals

DINCA Vision Quest Festival, Chicago, 2015

Stream Single Title

Title Awards Image Major Exhibitions/Festivals Description
Sea in the Blood

Equal First Prize for Best Male Short, Inside Out, Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Sea in the Blood

OutFest (LA, CA.), 2001

Rotterdam International Film Festival (The Netherlands), 2001


Athens Int'l Film/Video Festival (OH), 2001



Sea In The Blood is a personal documentary about living with illness, tracing the relationship of the artist to thalassemia in his sister Nan, and AIDS in his partner Tim. At the core of the piece are two trips. The first is in 1962, when Richard went from Trinidad to England with Nan to see a famous hematologist interested in her unusual case. The second is in 1977 when Richard and Tim made the counterculture pilgrimage from Europe to Asia. The relationship with Tim blossomed, but Nan died before their return. The narrative of love and loss is set against a background of colonialism in the Caribbean and the reverberations of migration and political change.

"Sea in the Blood was to be a meditation on race, sexuality and disease, but after working with the material for three years, it was the emotional story that came through. It's hard to work with such personal material, but in the end the work takes on a life of its own. 'Richard' is a character. Because of the subject matter — disease and death — I wanted to avoid sentimentality. I'd like the audience to think as well as feel."

— Richard Fung