What's That For?


1970 | 00:06:41 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 1/2" open reel video

Collection: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles

Tags: City, Film or Videomaking, TV production, Video History

This early Videofreex production exemplifies the type of imaginative approach that the collective adopted when exploring the medium of video, and how, in many ways, this balance of play and experimentation defined and unified the group's work from the very start.

Skip Blumberg, one of the co-founders of the collective, carries a box through the streets of Manhattan. Spliced with shots of an outdoor festival, a food market, and an underground train rushing by, the act offers an entangled visual narrative about the machinery of transportation. On and off throughout the video, the audio of someone asking, “What’s that for?” can be heard. This deceptively simple question, routinely asked by people new to the portable video technology upon encountering the Freex, emphasizes how a mix of anxiety and intrigue informed both the collective's ongoing projects and their reception. 

Additionally, by creating a mise-en-scene of screens, as displayed in the closing scene of the video, the Freex provide a provocative answer to the open-ended question “What’s that for?” They suggest that the medium had "just been let out of the box." The value and use of video had yet to solidfy.

—Fay Gleisser

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