RS Unpublished Draft Part 2
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NOTO BENO                  - Steve Bono

I'm not talking to you.
This is video isn't it?
I'm not talking to You.
(Do you enjoy sins this size? synthesize?)
Don't be afraid I may be among you
  but I'm not talking to You.
This is video, don't you know.

My name is Ron.
Elect me and you need not be afraid.
What you are seeing is not me,
   it is just my coating.
It isn't me, it's just Ron and its coating.
Elect me.

You see I intend to make light of
   such matters.
Take it!
This Light (such matters).
This is what I reely am.
Do you see? Do you hear?
Let us cut through to such matters
   or cut it out.

For I am not here to .
   make a Drama out of
   such a matter
Or to psych myself out
   (Psych this Drama)
THIS is drama or
   dharma or mama.
There is nothing else except what you are
   seeing or hearing.
THIS is not drama except that you
   saw it and heard it.
(Let this tape worm its way into
   your heart.)

If you cannot see me,
   how can you see what I mean?
For you are not seeing me,
   this is video, remember?
You can barely see the shadow
   where I once was.

I don't mean to be subjective,
or subject you to the subject matter,
for it isn't the subject that matters.
Let's decode the coating, throw off
   the premises and continue.

Do you prefer sins this size? 














You ask me what I have realized.
There is no context.
There is no contest.
There is no reason to contest
   the context.
(That is what I have real eyes.)

Some of you may ask, "what is this worth?
   is it worth anything to me?"
I'm not sitting here, you are.

You can leave if you like.
If you are waiting for a sign,
   some sudden flash,
You may as well leave.
   Understand this:
There is not even Me. I'm not here
   and you are free to do as you like.
I have shown you that I am not
   in my picture, nor in my voice.

Understand that consciousness,
   it's within you.

(do you find this
image scandalous?)

Let me say that I
have not come to
God the Father
the Video (man).

There is no center

to video anymore .
  or anything!
What you are seeing is a
   residue of consciousness.
What you ,are seeing exists in a place
  where there is no ES,
There is no BS, there is not anything,
  except Ron and Coating.

You will have to do it for yourself
   from now on,
   if you haven't already left.
Go ahead. GO! I won't care.
   I'm not even here.
You are. What are you waiting for?

Copyright 1973, by Steve Bono.

Steve Bono is a filmmaker and art stu-
dent at the Art Institute of Chicago.
He has worked in half-inch with Philip
Lee Morton.




                                                         by Kaye Miller



"Foole, saide my muse to mee, looke in thy heart and write." --Sidney

It is always a pleasant fantasy to imagine that one is playing some part in the discovery of a new Muse--of a mode of expression whose properties differ so radically from others that it ceases to be a mere medium and becomes instead a guide and inspiration. Maybe, but the fantasy is usually indulged to the disregard of probability and of history, as well as outside of any context of self-criticism. Certainly, even new media seldom prove to be more than novel ways of refracting messages, and the most that command over the properties of videotape can do in itself is to make one into an engineer. Similarly, command over systems of ideas is usually called sophistry. In neither case is the relevant Muse especially nice; it is a tenth Muse, named Power. (The key to this, in the sentences above, is the word command.)

I want to talk about three rather important half-inch videotapes, with an eye to saying something about the properties of the medium as they distinguish tape from other means of refracting reality. All three tapes handle political material. But all are really about the possibilities of the medium. Two make implicit but unsubstantiated assertions about how we best can understand social reality through half-inch; the third offers a persuasive demonstration that half-inch may not be intrinsically very different in its possibilities than any of our accustomed media. The first two are Top Value Television's 1972 convention pieces, The. World's Biggest TV Studio (Democratic) and Four More Years. The third is Sit-In, made by Steve Landsman at Humvideo, the University of Chicago.

The convention tapes, being probably the most widely seen half-inch pieces ever made, are commonly regarded as models of what VTR can do in its mode of direct recording. Also, by virtue of being right there on top of audience ratings, they are logical prey for criticism. Sit-In, on the other hand, is, like most tapes, unseen by all but a mostly small, local audience, and so neither has had its image tarnished by success, nor has it become widely seen enough to pose a competitive threat to other tapemakers. (There is, after all, a political logic in any of these businesses. One cannot succeed without the aid of others, yet current versions of success also tend to dissolve collegiality.) Audiences or not, though, Sit-In's achievement is indisputable, in so far as it shows an understanding of its own language sufficient to use the language to make a statement (not a suggestion but a statement) about itself. No mean accomplishment, particularly when that is what tape has been all about for so many people, after all: the Master Medium that could outframe all other media--that could even outframe the television technology our fathers enslaved us with, rendering Roger Mudd, in Four More Years, an absolutely speechless catatonic. But those are little ticklings (both technical and social); they titillate the Muse of Power, but we never quite get past the excitement, and so never quite speak our intentions toward this medium, and so keep rediscovering what has already been discovered and fail to invent what is ours to dispose of. At a time when the most frequently heard claims for any one tape amount to either "It's a groovy tape" (that is, watch it stoned) or "It's been shown on cable" ("Man, did we blow their minds!"), some closer examination of half-inch's claims seems worthwhile.

Arguing from its properties, the principal claim for half-inch videotape recording seems to be that it tells the truth better than the other media we use:


1) It sustains a concreteness of reference that verbal language lacks.

2) It does less violence to the syntax of everyday life than verbal language because it simply records what is there-- and does so in rather long takes-- rather than imposing form from a linguistic structure.

3) Because of its mobility and great sensitivity to light, half-inch is superior to film and television in the telling of truth because it gets closer to what is actually happening, rather than erecting a wall of sound stages, lights, and production values between the consumer and his object.

4) Because of its cheapness, availability, and simplicity, half-inch makes possible the decentralization of that power usually so closely associated with the arbitration of fact (more important, it is thought, than the power of the arbitration of taste or opinion).

5) Because of the cheapness of the raw stock and labor (after all, anyone can-- and will-- shoot tape) with half-inch, realities can be represented that would ordinarily be beneath the attention of anyone who had to take substantial risks of time or money in order to make a statement, either in a book or a film.

6) Because of the ease of playback possible with tape, not only can it be used to raise levels of self-consciousness in personally cathartic and socially therapeutic ways (and vice versa), but that awareness can itself be incorporated into finished tapes as reflexive data, that relieves the otherwise boring recapitulation of vast quantities of surface material.

These are the properties of videotape and, taken together, it is asserted, they comprise not simply an evolution of some existing technologies, but actually a quantum leap into something like thermosensory fusion, a sort of reverse hydrogen bomb that, instead of fusing particles in order to release energy to blow things apart, actually liberates and decentralizes energy in order to recreate the central nervous system of humankind--returning Man to his condition before the Fall. This is, of course, one of the purely hyperbolic assertions of the half-inch techno-idealists.

What the argument really comes down to is far more elementary--namely, Is reality its appearance? If it is, reality can best be represented by the closest~ most thorough kind of recording of surface--thorough both technically, with as little refraction as possible, and socially (or economically), in as widespread, pluralistic a fashion as possible. The critique that half-inch people--and, implicitly, those doing ciné-vérité--level against the ordinary perception of reality is that too much media intervention stands between the perceived and the percipient. A variation on the argument is that ordinary appearances are misleading (partly because influenced by the media) and that the task of the new media is to get at the true appearance that is somewhere just behind the apparently true appearance.

And, we might add, the political assertion that usually follows is that any man of good will who sees things, including himself, "as they actually are" wil1 act toward them either out of his good will, or from its obverse, the embarrassment that accompanies painful truths. These are the two sides of the "feedback" coin. The coin was somewhat devalued by the response to the crystal-sync, in-your-dining-room-at dinner coverage of the Vietnam war or of the 1968 Democratic Convention. Nevertheless, we all remember those first charity telethons in the Golden Age. Things seemed to be what they seemed to be (and we cared!); but who could really be sure? The same channel, after all, broadcast Wrestling live from the Olympic Auditorium on Wednesday nights, and I remember endless arguments with my father in 1949 and 1950 about whether or not Baron Michel Leone and Antonino Argentina Rocca were really hurting one another. Pop loved it as pure horseshit; I resented his impiety. But the plain fact was there to be discovered: that the only thing being hurt was my childish assumption that things are simply what they seem to be.

Nor can we easily find out what things are in themselves by making facile juxtapositions with other things whose signs are clearer to us. Thus, for example, one of the early scenes in TVTV's tape of the Republican Convention features a tight traveling shot of adolescent girls with pimples shouting "Four more years!!! But the shot, with its implied irony, no more reveals the "contradictions of the system" than it tells us anything important either about the girls' experience of what they are doing or the actual social meanings of


what's happening. The shot makes no assertion, but only sets up a sure-fire joke that gets lost in the laughter.

I want to question one of the fundamental structural effects of the ciné-vérité, half-inch method--namely, the tendency of the author to shift responsibility for the assertions made onto the reality represented, rather than taking the responsibility himself. This, I would argue, is due in large part to the nature of the photographic medium itself, and to the kind of internal structuring it encourages. In ordinary language, we assume great responsibility for verbal expression, principally because we work with rather small expressive units--words or even phonemes--that have limited meanings when they stand alone. The construction of any utterance involves the deliberate combination of large numbers of these units. In direct photographic representation, however, our expressive units become substantially larger and more complete--veritable pictures of reality--with relatively fewer of them required to form an utterance. (Although a ten-minute film run at sound speed contains over 14,000 separate photographs, the actual number of pictures --i.e. shots--may be as few as one. In videotape, this is frequently the case, with internal movement actually developing the meaning of the simple photograph in front of us.)

The style of montage, however, differs in that it recapitulates the difficulties of verbal language, and places responsibility for what is said once again upon the author of the work. This is so simply because it is the combination, rather than the individual images (whether they have much duration or not) that carries the meaning, and the combination is wrought in order to render the invisible and intangible open to experiencing from outside itself and its own immediate field. The long take, on the other hand--so characteristic of direct cinéma and half-inch--purports to make the surfaces widely accessible to any number of interpretations as to meaning or, more arrogantly, to the single set of meanings that should be obvious to any observer. The difference in editing style and technology between film and tape, of course, is obvious, but even more than anything in film, half-inch video technology encourages the direct style of the long take, and makes it very difficult to experiment with other ways of telling the truth comparable to what has been done with film. The mechanics of the style are identified by Brian Henderson in "The. Long Take" (Film Comment, Summer 1971, pp 8-9): 

".. .the crucial cut between related long takes might be called the selective cut or even mise-en-scene cutting. It must be carefully differentiated from montage. Montage is the connection or relation of two or more shots--of entire film pieces--in some overall format. Montage treats or arranges the whole piece, not just the end of one and the beginning of another. The intra-sequence cut does not relate, arrange or govern the whole of "the pieces it joins; it merely has a local relationship to the beginnings and ends of the connecting shots, at the place they are joined."

But for too long, half-inch people coming to video from film (or from film aspirations) have decried the shortcomings in the technology that make it unable to duplicate the language of film, and have ignored the lessons of the grand-daddy of long takes--early live television--with its implicit assumption that, unless the actors were in bad faith, the meanings of things, just as the things themselves, coalesced in their appearances. The lesson was that live television, most expressive after all of the essential difference between television and other media, had nowhere near the durability of the older, less obviously veridical medium of film (including the adaptation of film editing to the creation of television "shows"). But then, of course, film--precisely because it is expressive rather than representational--has always rung truer in a funny way than live television with its appearance of refracting only space. And film itself has succeeded not especially because of montage, but because most practitioners have realized that a film, in order to reproduce meaning and motive - i.e. the inside of the surface of human action--must use either montage or mise-en-scene to intersect the rather barren surfaces that most real-time events present to us.


The problem in videotape has usually been that the background is accidental, and thus only occasionally reveals those general conditions in which action is embedded. Otherwise, for the most part, the embedding occurs inside of the actors; in their histories and their understandings of  their own activities. It is no little wonder that frequently the most interesting tapes and ciné-vérité films are those shot in circumstances that are highly regularised and thus manifest a surface that adequately represents its own inside--as ethnic communities, social rituals, games, and so on--or in those events, such as riots, where the inside seems to break right through to the surface. Otherwise, half-inch, without the economic constraints of film, searches through the world, camera running, looking for those moments containing the dense revelation of meaning that we have learned to associate with "art". But art, of course, without its artifice: that is, to find that which both is laden with meaning and can be reproduced automatically. What else, after all, do we mean when we say "That would be a good piece of half-inch" but that appearance and meaning happen to coincide spontaneously in the world, and that the only intervention necessary to render the congruence apparent would be simple recording. Craig Gilbert, producer of An American Family, said, in an interview with Global Village's John Reilly:

If my premise is correct, there is no family you could cover for seven months without something dramatic or revealing happening. If you stay long enough with a family those things will surface, and that' s what the series is in part about.

--TUBE, May-June 1973, p 18.

What is most apparent in An American Family, however, is not so much a lack of meaning as a lack of art. It should be clear that half-inch and its parent, ciné-vérité, assert a definite theory of the use of film, revolving around the notion that film fulfills itself best when its chief properties are taken to be its capabilities for photographic representation and for reproducing actual duration.

And, let's face it: besides all that has been said so far, the applications of half-inch that we are most familiar with have not emerged out of real theory, but rather out of the concrete experiences of shooting and looking at videotape. While a favorite editing motif may be infolding, or the feedback tape [see Terry Moyemont, this issue], a common shooting and viewing motif is suggested by the Mobius strip or the Klein bottle. Here, the assumption is that the surface, if you follow it long enough, leads to the inside. That inside, of course, is also a surface--the same one, in fact--and there is no leap to be made to the inside, no inferences to commit yourself to. Very really, then, there is no inside, but only accessible surfaces, which one must have the patience to keep looking at in order to draw the whole together and thus distinguish the real appearance from the false. (Interestingly, until Craig Gilbert's $l million-plus budget, no filmmaker ever had the opportunity that everyone in half-inch has had to test the Kleinian hypothesis for the representation of social reality.)

With this philosophical commitment implicit in half-inch work, it is no surprise that no special efforts are made to combine the long take with what has always been taken in film to be its necessary concomitant--namely, the mise-en-scene, that density of background that establishes the meaning of the action. And certainly, then, it is not just an oversight that practically no fiction work has been done with tape, none of that complex editorial manipulation that characterized most experimental film (based usually on hand-cranked Bolexes with their non-sync and short takes of less than thirty seconds). Rather, half-inch, based on sync, long takes, and little scarcity of materiel implicitly asserts that reality should take responsibility for itself, rather than being taken onto his shoulders by some world-suffering Jewish artist. All put, I suppose, in the doctrine that reality can speak for itself, and ought to.

But our problem (and partly our problem of finding audiences) has been that neither has half-inch, with its infinite possibilities for the reproduction of surfaces, helped satisfy our curiosity about the world, nor has it told us very much about what makes the world go around. To relax from the discipline of tedium laid on us by tape, we still chase out to a movie when we can, just to get satisfaction.


One small genre of film has, however, done something about exploring the shadows between fiction and documentary, with the assertion that truth hides in the shadows, that the "facts of the matter" are to be found in its human understanding, rather than in the matter itself.

Peter Watkins' films (The War Game, Privilege, The Battle 0f Culloden, Punishment Park) all play in a realm where the document provides the information that authenticates the fiction but where, equally, the fiction transforms the document into what Cocteau meant by "truth beyond truth." Thus, Privilege, which is about a pop singer in England sometime in the near future, gains its veracity not simply from its duplication of many shots and situations from the National Film Board's Lonely Boy, but from the fantasy it indulges that converts a maybe-funny, maybe-sad Paul Anka into Stephen Shorter, whose insides can be revealed to us precisely because he is a fiction, and whose social meanings we can be led to intentionally and directly, without resorting either to academic narrative or to cheap juxtaposition. Privilege stands at an interesting edge of film: on the one hand, things always seem utterly more real than real, just because they are on a screen; yet, just because they are on a screen, they also seem less probable because our usual expectation of the movie screen is that it communicates fictions. The edge is the place where we are not sure whether what we see is the case or not. It has the earmarks of the real thing; it also has the earmarks of fiction. What tells us that The Battle of Culloden is not direct documentary is that we know there was no film in 1745. What tells us that Punishment Park isn't true is that no one else in the audience seems to have heard independently of the events it presents. (This latter is a poor indicator, as I will point out.)

What it comes down to is that a substantial difference between television and videotape can be understood in terms of what we expect to see on the screen. We all remember the gadgets advertised in comic books that would enable any jerk kid with a dollar to speak through the family radio set, and to say any made-up thing that he wanted. Or the ads in True for rifles that any kid with $22 could use to shoot a president. Or the VTR, with which any of us can put onto the family TV (if only the family could watch!) that which we know to be the truth ("Man, did we blow their minds!"). But what would happen to our sensibilities if we were to astonish even ourselves, by violating our own expectations of what comes out the barrel of a Sony?

Response to Steve Landsman's tape, Sit-In, is interesting in this context. A few people (but not many) called Robert Kramer wrong-headed when he made Ice because, they claimed, he had exploited an established mass agitation documentary technique in order to indulge a politically adventurist fantasy. But not many people minded because film, with Godard, Pontecorvo, Watkins, had already established the possibility of finding truth best where it is actually located, rather than necessarily under a street light. ("What are you doing?" "Looking for a quarter I lost." "Did you lose it here?" "No, across the street." "Why don't you look there?" "Because the light's better over here.")

With tape, though, the possibility of truth-in-fantasy is still greeted with considerable derision. Briefly, SIT-IN deals with the University of Chicago sit-in of 1969. Mostly, the event is reconstructed using still photos from the time, and most of the actual motion video-tape consists of interviews with "survivors." The tape is all in all pretty straightforward and, in the manner of much half-inch, not very interesting unless one is especially interested in that particular sit-in. Participants proceed with their narration, someone mentions the State's Attorney Hanrahan coming, "which I (the viewer) sort of remember," then the police (again I remember), then a fire extinguisher released ("I think I heard about that"), then a gun shot ("Oh!"), then several more ("I didn't know that"), then people falling, someone telling about a person next to him who fell to the floor with blood pouring from his head ("My God! Why hadn't we heard about that?"), then to someone in a surgical coat next to an operating table talking about how 200 bodies were brought in, most dead on arrival ("Hey! Wait a minute. Did this really happen?") to more of the same while one realizes that it's all a joke, a fiction, that it didn't really happen, right to the end, where the narrator says, "All I know is that, when I looked around me after it was all over, there are 123 fewer students at the University of Chicago." And then the viewer realizes that those things didn't


"really" happen except in the minds of the participants and that, in a sense, the real meaning of the sit-in's outcome was more fully realized in the fiction than in any straight representation of what had objectively happened. In certain ways, Orson Welles  Invasion From Mars rang truer than most radio programs, though it had no discernible ethical purpose. Certainly, it moved people to immediate action in a way few radio or television broadcasts (except the telethons) ever have. Especially pointed was showing of Sit-In to a seminar sponsored by the Screen Educators Society. I ran the tape without any special introduction. A few people gasped a little when the blood and the 200 bodies were mentioned, but mostly there were no ripples in the audience. When the showing was over, everyone agreed that they wanted to know why I had bothered showing them this, after all, rather mundanely produced tape. So, all those people had been killed; but, they complained, because the tape had not shown the actual killing and the bodies, the audience had not learned any more about that kind of violence than they already knew. Actually, not one person present questioned whether or not 200 people had actually been gunned down. Afterwards, a few admitted that they had had some doubts, "but, as long as no one else in the audience expressed any doubts, I figured maybe my memory was a little off. There's so much of this stuff going on these days that it's hard to keep it all straight."

The violation of conventional expectations --even when done by we whose specialty as youth has been the violation of other persons' expectations--evokes strong, censorial reactions. Landsman's producer at Humvideo (Yes, there is a half-inch Front Office) insisted on attaching to the title, Sit-In, the qualifier, --A Docufantasy, just as the German film studio, UFA, had insisted that the central anti-authority story in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari be framed by another story which places the action in an insane asylum. One other Chicago half-inch person condemned the tape flatly, with the comment that it is not true and therefore is not half-inch. Not just that it's not true, of course, but that it allows a fiction to be carried on the back of what is supposed always to ring true--poor shooting, herringbone editing, bad sound ("With all this going against you, Steve, do you have to lie, too?"). But of course the point the critic misses is that Sit-In is not a lie. Socially and politically, it is truer than merely objectively true; the inside of the event, in fact, is put right out into view, an inside that one would never arrive at no matter how far he followed the surface. The inside never became an event, it never "happened." Therefore, it was never recorded, so is to be found nowhere on the visible surface; this is, after all, the fundamental limitation of recording. So, given the two statements: (1) that the tape lies and is, therefore, not half-inch, and (2) that the tape is half-inch, we are left with the interesting conclusion that (1) half-inch might not be so unique after all and (2) we might be able to do more with it than we thought.

Sit-In almost has a quality of revolutionary "camp" to it, in comparison with the TVTV tapes. The convention tapes put a media frame right around broadcast TV, and so· turn TV--just as TV has turned the conventions--into camp artifacts, framed for our appreciation. And we do appreciate it, remaining comfortably in the stance of consumer. Sit-In is revolutionary camp, though, precisely because it frames the claims and pretensions of its own medium, and suggests that the viewer might have to take some more active part in the determination of fact. TVTV outframes the other media, but in its commitment to state-of the-art technology and broadcast (Which means that it is infinitely slicker than Sit-In, and infinitely easier to just plain see), it seeks to imitate the standards of "good" television. With Sit-In, although we know better, it is almost as if they deliberately did half-inch edits in order to recreate that state of the art so characteristic of early half-inch (that is, a few months ago) when what one saw on half-inch held one's attention because, at least, it didn't substitute artifice for truth. And so the joke the tape makes in its deadpan camp fashion is all the more hilarious because it shakes even the comfortable perch of the laughter.

It is, of course, a dangerous tape, unlike the TVTV tapes, whose structure and style, like that of most all journalism, supports the status quo, regardless of any superficial changes that are effected. This is


always the case so long as work proceeds from a light-headed sensibility rather than from a basic analysis. In the case of the two political conventions, the real material is political, but TVTV came to its task primarily out of an interest in the events as media events, or what Daniel Boorstin calls "pseudo-events." What is missed in this is the fact that at least two things are going on at once: (1) the media event and (2) the principal business of the gathering. Just as, in a trial, justice is being seen to be done, in some instances it may actually be being done as well. What TVTV does have to say about the world is that events have frames. END MESSAGE. Interviews with TV reporters dissolve to the same interviewers with TV reporters on a TV screen within a TV screen. That dissolve and the multiple framing is the tape's content, because all the rest is simply a repetition of what they already know about the world, learned from TV (and from that part of TV they most attend to, "The News") .

The opportunity for actually getting close to things, and understanding them closely, is usually missed. One example of the tapes' essential conservatism is the potentially interesting segment of The World's  Biggest TV Studio titled "The California Challenge." Willie Brown explains to the California delegates the strategy of the planned challenge, and does so at length and in a very complicated fashion. So long and so intricate, in fact, that it becomes extraordinarily difficult to follow. At the end, an off-screen voice, with that mellow-stone, half-inch timbre, asks "Do you understand what he said?" Now, this is a valuable question, because regular TV never suggests that you might have to be really inside of something to understand it. (TV as a mass product is based on the premise that one customer's money is as good as another's, even if it's information that's being sold, and that, just as with a Cadillac, it doesn't take any special qualities to consume the very best.) And one does realize that perhaps he, the viewer, was not alone in beginning to think that Willie Brown's rap sounded like so much jive, and that perhaps even fairly radical politicians could be seen to be a lot like the others. But all TVTV does with it is to make a small joke out of the complications of otherness, and thus misses the same thing that broadcast TV does-namely, the need for sustained analysis, rather than for a good laugh. When we are done laughing, we can get right back to business, with the satisfaction of having gotten a little more distance from our act than we had before we laughed. Just as with the bepimpled girls in Four More Years, we are left with a keen sense of the absurdity of a political process that uses pimples in this way, but without any more analysis than is given by a simple series of images, regardless of how memorable each image might be.

Nor could it be argued that the analysis occurs in the editing structure of the tape. The dominant style of most tape editing is still that of the long take, but without the story-telling or analytic capabilities that make the technique work in fiction, where the content of the shot can be controlled in ways other than merely pointing the camera and choosing the appropriate focal length. One of the section-titles of the Democratic Convention tape sort of tells the whole editing principle: "Miami Scrapbook," the stringing together of more or less interesting and somewhat thematically related shots. At one point in Four More Years, for example, the viewer assumes the tape is in its final shot. The scene is a sun-drenched, vacant sidewalk. A very old man enters the frame, carrying that T.S. Eliot feeling, but without the crispness. He is asked his reaction to what's going on, responds "I'm not interested in the convention," turns and walks away, leaving only the head of the microphone in one corner of the frame. A great little scene for a closer! But then the tape goes on, just like the world but not just like a movie and not like anything that structures experience any more than a mirror structures the world.

The convention tapes are thus perfectly expressive of the tapers' attitude that tape should come nearer to the reflection of life than fiction film does. Just as, in one's life--here his experience of the convention--the conclusion is not necessarily reached temporally at the same time that it is dramatically. The encounter


with the old man on the street might be the dramatic conclusion, but life is not like that; it goes on. It is not a movie. But this is to ignore the effect of a movie in moving us into an understanding of life that life itself, with its infinite surface, seldom allows us. The mirror representation, then, becomes a series of vignettes, any one of which might trigger trips into his own personal history by a viewer. But neither the vignettes, nor their organization, contain their own insides or point of view, except the attitude that everyone is entitled to his own history and is free to dispose of it mentally as he likes. Certainly, the history of my own experience of videotape (especially viewing it at length, late at night) is one that is strongly marked by the particularism of my own experience, rather than by my appreciation of meanings that someone else has already formed the material into. It is raw and its possibilities are thus infinite. Looking at tape is frequently like being "the first white man to look at North America;" you can never be sure that anyone else has even looked at what is before you, much less seen it, cameras being the ultimate automatism.

The intended audience response (mostly realized), as in so much editing which proceeds from cut to cut, is a series of laughs or groans at each juxtaposition, with one giant summary laugh or groan at the end, which magically leads to analysis and understanding where there has been none before. But, because the whole thing is like the news, the summary understanding has the same dead weight as the feeling one has after reading The New York Times. One more big laugh or groan--one among so many others in your life. (To borrow a caption from Four More Years, "0ne of 250,000.") The social result is the development of a particular sensibility, but certainly not of clear, shared understandings. It is therefore surprising that the same old political claims for half-inch continue to be asserted.

By and large, the lack of political utility stems from a half-inch sensibility that would rather talk about things (and their frames) than to deal with their substance. Partly, that tendency comes from the combination of a lack of talent and experience, and of the expectation that one is, himself, somehow an avatar of the Future. The result is a certain disdain for doing things oneself. One's mind moves more quickly than he can act, and so it is better to let others act and to make tape about them. Videotape comes at a remarkable time, then, in the history of the widespread diffusion of the stance of academic distance among those who are not otherwise inclined to academic pursuits. With tape (as with film, but less expensively, and therefore with less commitment to taking the risks that making a product involves), one can watch, analyze, understand, even edit, but never actually touch the world or exercise the violence over its elements that is necessary to make something or to establish some condition that did not previously exist. This is the case even in most instances of using tape for consciousness-raising or organizing. What happens is that watching tape is sold as activity to more people. TVTV sells hardware. It prophesies the future. It does little for the development of language.

We should be content merely to invent, and to let ourselves be surprised just like people always have been, rather than trying to discover what will be there, and boring ourselves and others in the mode of prophecy. So, let us talk about the properties of tape, rather than about its pretensions, and make it do what we want by understanding its language and possibilities, rather than predicting where it will inevitably (in one official, and two or three thousand private, versions of inevitability) carry us. Surely, just because tape helps us to get outside of ourselves, it does not necessarily stand outside of us and give meaning. We still have that task.

Copyright 1973 by Kaye Miller

THE WORLD'S BIGGEST TV STUDIO and FOUR MORE YEARS. Produced by Top Value Television.  Sony AV.  SIT-IN. Produced by Humvideo, Box L, The University of Chicago, Steve Landsman, tapemaker.



by Terry Moyemont



Terry Moyemont might be called the Gyro Gearloose of half-inch video method. Working in the village of Dwight, Illinois, he has probably done more than anyone else in the Midwest for the development of method and of coherent ways of thinking about half-inch. His work with retarded and disturbed children in Illinois, London and Ukiah is noteworthy, as are his efforts as an associate of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. His film, STEREOPTICON, has been hailed by conventional critics as "totally lacking in human values." Using a Sony RF converter and a wire coat hanger, Terry and his grandmother achieved the first air broadcast from a portapak over a distance of thirty feet in their back yard.

I've had an odd feeling, which I suspect others writing in this issue may share, that reviewing a tape is either an entirely novel kind of art or at least a newly ambiguous variation on some old arts. I say this because a tape need not have a plot or characters or spoken lines or music or any of the other things taken from the other arts. These qualities aren't essential to video work, but this position ignores devices whose origins and developments range from literature, sociology and music to mathematics. In fact without these devices and the criticisms which make them evident and prepare them for further adaptation and use, we would not really be able to construct a video work, much less understand what a tape is when we face it.

DON'T WALK uses a number of procedures taken from the conventional arts. The arts can be treated as a domain of varied devices used to structure a wide range of recorded or "formed" materials, which are themselves records or demonstrations of art forms or genres. Although this is an important function for video if we are interested in organizing and relating the arts, the structure alone of a video product is not sufficient to tell us why reviewing a tape is such a strange activity.

The problem remains. Most video is seen by a private audience, that is by a small audience whose composition is usually determined by the applications of the tape. But it's still the case that a good amount of film is given similar exhibition and finds like applications. For instance, one could show ZABRISKIE POINT in order to test or establish tenets of aesthetics, formulate political commonplaces, or gain psychological insights. Many academics do in fact use film this way. Again, both film and video reviews will be read by many who will never see the work reviewed, simply because of distribution problems. This does not mean, however, that the art of reviewing each is identical.

Here some distinctions can be made that may open up a way into the reviewer's art: First, the distinction between broadcast television and tape. Since its earliest use, TV has been enthused in and at by many in and out of the cinématic arts because of its capability to transmit real-time images of events. This "live" function has even led to a current thesis that television is the intelligence of the earth. Videotapes, too, have a liveliness, but a kind that further restricts the one-way live presentation and speech of the maker(s) to the audience, itself a restriction of two-way television in which the audience and artist are not always separable as they conduct their lives. We can make the following comparisons:

Two-way television is to One-way broadcast as it is to Videotape as it is to Film, just as:

Life is to Live as it is to Lively as it is to Life-like.

Videotape is not anyone speaking or anything happening, in the strict sense. Or,


put differently: chance, fortune, and nature tend to be ruled out--as they tend not to be in broadcast--and so the stuff must be an end of some art(s).

Second, since the reviewer will be primarily interested in how the maker puts video together and presents it, he will immediately distinguish between the lively satirizing, copying and mixing of contemporary genres, particularly video itself, and the "family life" of many tapes which appear as generations and variations re-edited under many criteria for exhibition to many different audiences. So now it is the case that the viewer may have missed the work being reviewed but may have seen something that both is and is not the work. This articulates the problem but complicates it. The reviewer will have to constantly invent or restructure devices and methods for dealing with each new member of a family of tapes as well as each new family. This is related to some problems in the criticism of improvised music. Nonetheless, reliance on varying uses and the wide range of what can be called subject matter makes the problems sufficiently different.

What can we do with DON'T WALK? The difficulty is not that it is a very dense work, combining many images and sounds in an almost constant flow. This is only a problem of description and depends upon an adequate system of notation. There is a paradox in that the work seems to be about a number of events and speeches which we must either have some previous factual knowledge of when viewing the tape, or that we must gain from the viewing. But the strict presentation of events, particularly the battles between video artists and the New York State Council of the Arts is too fragmented and sparse for an adequate literal understanding. And the many speeches and conversations, particularly those of Buckminster Fuller, are not so much complete passages or recordings as they are repeated significant lines or parabolic snatches tagged on to the ends of different sequences.

Yet if we begin not from the adequacy or inadequacy of the tape, or the truth or falsity of its presentation of facts, but from the method or way in which the work structures the facts, the paradox dissolves. The questions of the meaning of DON'T WALK and the nature of video become questions of semantics. First, to fix a univocal meaning we judge whether the work is good or bad in accordance with some established criteria for intelligible reference or some canon, symbol, or percept manipulation. For the second, more general question we construct a theory which both distinguishes video unambiguously from the other art forms and refutes other theories of video (no matter how well or poorly thought out) in the light of existing video works. We must separate these from the questions proper to art: how does DON'T WALK do what it does? And how do video arts proceed? We are asking here how a work, or the kind of art of which it is a product, uses formed materials of the arts (as genres) to produce new structures and how it adapts and uses the methods or devices of the arts. This is to treat video as an art of editing, whether with deck or camera. Art, then, is both the form of the materials and the form of the materials. This generalizes art to cover all processes and products; and not only the fine arts but all arts by which anything is made, thought, done, or said.

Let's hold to this way and open up the first section of DON'T WALK:

The tape starts with a variation of the device of presenting the work before it "really begins" or of letting the work "come together" (e.g. Bergman's PERSONA where the projector is first turned on and threaded, or the early Grateful Dead's use of disconnected riffs and tunings to begin a selection). We see a dark screen and hear a loud hum; then the screen becomes snow with horizontal roll; next the silent out-of-focus image of moving car and street lights (with poor tracking for the first few seconds); sound returns as a harsh, static-covered voice coming through an unshielded mike; finally a cut to and focus in on a "DON'T WALK" crossing light.

The screen goes snowy again for a moment. Then we hear two speeches and get to see behind the works. Academician Bernard Schweitzer is seen at a seminar-type situation telling the audience that people who want pollution are paying for it, that "...if you drive a car or live in an oil-heated home, you are paying for pollution." While his voice continues, another image is superimposed and then replaces his--the studio where Barry Schwartz and friends are watching many monitors (including one of Schweitzer), turning cameras on them, and seemingly mixing the tape


we are watching. In a voice-over we hear Buckminster Fuller saying "... come to enough knowledge about how to do so much with so little, to understand enough about our great universe and man's place in that universe to realize that his function is the mind's ability to bring great order... etc." During the completion of Fuller's speech the image of an ordered product of his mind, a rising geodesic dome, is supered. This superimpositioning and assembly of the two speeches as parts of a whole  sequence is an adaptation of a device which ranges from thematic counterpoint in music to audio lap-dissolves (Fellini's ) to quasi-systematic conversational fragments used by some modern novelists (William Gaddis' RECOGNITIONS) to present parties and other social spaces. The shot of the mixing location, the "process within the product" or the related "real within the fictive" is a variation on the device used in such modern forms as the movie-within-the-movie (again or Robert Frank's ME AND MY BROTHER or the I AM CURIOUS...films), the fictions of Borges, and some of Escher's 360-degree graphics. It also has its antecedents in a history which includes the early English novel (TRISTRAM SHANDY), the arts of exemplary biography, and those dialogues of Plato where a story of Socrates is re-told to an audience by someone who was present himself or heard it from another.

The scene of the tape now cuts to a meeting in progress between area video artists and representatives of the New York State Council of the Arts. The passage is an edit of some straight vérité stuff, complete with crappy sound, which was shot by someone(s) from Raindance. The camera is sometimes on the speaker, sometimes on the listeners. Barry Schwartz's voice comments from time to time. A participating artist talks about how the Council is making it a hassle to cooperate with them, while the image is cutting back and forth from the mixing studio to the meeting. ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA comes up and dominates the sound. It seems to be coming from a transistor radio being held up to a mike in the studio. And so the story infolds. .. .

What are the transformations which the devices work on the material? The coming together of the tape's beginning from seemingly unintentional audio and video noise first reads like a transition from Nature --in this case the nature of the machines --to art (or the intentional use of machines). And really this electronic trope gives quite a bit of the initial "life" to the tape precisely because it looks so unintentional, even though you are sure it is intended. (I must admit that since I had a third-generation copy, I wasn't sure at first that it was intended; but I knew it should make a difference.) But this is also the appearance of a theme which recurs throughout the tape, particularly through the use of feedback patterns and superimpositions: the source of image as internal or external. Or to put it into an analogy or proportion: Noise, or feedback, demonstrates or exhibits the video system as the video system demonstrates or exhibits the world. Further, it is one more case which indicates that the feedback tape is rapidly becoming a new genre and not just a technique. Or at the least, it is a new variety of the genre opened up by abstract animation and the computer-generated film.

In the case of the two speeches of Schweitzer and Fuller, the generic shifts are more obvious. They have been transformed from persuasive wholes and statement of fact or of system into epigrammatic maxims. As such they are the source for many of the themes, in the sense of subject-matters, of the tape: pollution of all sorts, the Universe, man's place in Nature, mind, and order, to name some. Then these passages, the speakers themselves, and the themes they indicate undergo permutations. Passages are repeated in whole or in part between different sequences and in varying contexts (e.g., these two opening speeches also close the tape and the Fuller segment occurs again near the middle). The speakers, of course, reappear saying other things. Sometimes a familiar speaker is seen with a strange voice speaking over. Subjects change as key terms are used in different applications. Pollution in the physical sense is varied by a later speaker who talks about "information pollution", a transformation accomplished by widening the application of "environment". "Order" moves from ecology to concern with "law and order", dealt with in a speech by Dick Gregory on black rioters and the Declaration of Independence, to the order of the tape as a whole to a long rap at the end of entropy, divergent and convergent aspects of the Universe, disintegration and reintegration of society. The first two speeches then, have also been transformed into examples for using other speeches and



A third transformation is already indicated here: parts of the tape may be taken as instances of information pollution or the sequence of the tape taken as an instance of order. The statements function methodologically to tell us what to do with passages of the tape, how to view the tape as a work, what relations can help us to understand it as a whole. This is frequently accomplished by statements about other arts or procedures, which create instant and unexpanded analogies. We are repeatedly reminded not to skip over or ignore one aspect after another by which we can consider the tape.

Barry's comments over the meeting use a variation on a set of related devices that range from the mixed mode of narrative and direct speech of characters in Homer to the textual commentary which make up Medieval books of sentences (e.g., Peter Lombard or Abelard) to the description and background which the 5 o'clock news gives us over the filmed coverage of an event. This sequence of comments is the first appearance of the last analogy mentioned above: story or account. It transforms the rather restricted documentary genre of the Raindance footage into a story, in the widest sense, of statements and of situations leading up to a problem: "can people, given cameras, also produce exciting video?" But this account is no more a fiction than the statements which are made at the meeting. The museum person worries about criteria of communication in a museum context or worries about what is the same thing, the intelligibility of the product. His worry has little concern with the process, which is then simplified: "...question of the museum and any sort of dogmatic control over what will be shot..."; the statements of the artists on either what their projects are or how to get the means to produce or exhibit them.

But product and process must both be included in any inquiry into art, and this is best done when they are translatable into each other and separate only in the frozen cross-section of definition. Similarly a device is only an empty technique until the materials are decided upon which render it particularly effective. A device repeatedly applied to the same materials in the same way becomes a genre. And form and matter themselves have alike translation. Form must be the form of something. Not just light and sound and their possible changes, but also bodies in motion and action, recognizable objects, meaningful words, themes--anything which is a subject matter. Again, the matter must have form. It is not just stuff. For instance, the speakers whose speeches, statements, and questions are part of the material of DON'T WALK use arts of persuasion, grammar, logic, elocution to give form to what they have said. And so the device of the documentary, using this sense of materials, restructures the account of artists vs. Council and should also transform the resulting problem into: "Can people, given video materials also produce exciting video?" The restriction to a narrow sense of materials may or may not have been one source of semantic difficulty between the artists and the Council. I just don't know the whole case. But DON'T WALK is certainly one artist's way of clearing up the semantics and making the problem fruitful. The tape is really a demonstration of many possible ways to answer the question with a "yes".

But while the transformation also gives rise to ambiguity and to a whole new range of problems, it also moves from controversy to new inquiry into how the materials of video are formed and the formed materials used.

The Example Of Dance in DON'T WALK

Footage of dancers is assembled and superimposed to do all sorts of things, from accompanying a Fuller talk on the brain and the Universe to giving adoration to a giant Nixon telling us " won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." But through a section which includes "...a sentient involvement and not an intellectual narrative continuity...," we hear a voice talking (over Fuller's) about working with dancers. We see Fuller with the dancers fading in and out. over him. The sounds of a rocket launch come over, and also a shot of a rocket, a steady follow of it pointing diagonally from lower left to upper right is superimposed. The voice says, "...the illusion. I'm not against art as illusion. With me dance is sacred. You have a physical body. It's flesh and bone. But the moment it makes a gesture, just then it becomes something else, a magical kind of thing."During the last sentence


the image of the rocket freezes and goes negative, it makes a gesture. Here video art is not merely making new wholes using the tape of dancers as parts. This is really a demonstration that one way in which video proceeds is analogous to a way in which dance proceeds. We could say: Dance is to video as gesture is to X (the device has no particular name yet). Or as a schematized proportion:

Device           Gesture          X

--------- :: ---------- :: ---------

Genre           Dance            Video

Depending upon what we include as a gesture, we can demonstrate the range of video devices that dance can help us to formulate. If we consider gesture to be that by which we perceive anything in dance, then dance gives us the means by which to structure all video images.

Music is used similarly. It is both played and it is talked about. It moves from simple accompaniment of mixed images to a hand playing a Moog while the player compares the sounds with a wild beast and talks about electronics and the sources of human behaviorism to Frank Zappa and Mother playing on the Cavett show and talking about music as a problem of censorship that the Constitution never envisioned to the playing of Paik's video-breasted cello-lady. Analogies like the one with dance could be made which might, for instance, set up music as the art of structuring all sounds in a video work.

Actually any art exhibited in DON'T WALK can expand to uncover a wide range of materials from all the arts and be used to give form to them in our videomaking.

To return to our original problem of why the art of reviewing a tape is novel, we are left with the difficulty of writing in dead words about something that is neither totally dead nor totally alive, neither truly moving nor truly static, something which is not a work of art in the sense of having a museum (and this includes movie houses), audiences of any size, nor is it an individual who can answer one's questions. Of course, one can still write in a style to entice others to see the tape or to please them with an exciting description. Or pull out important topics for discussion or find indications of a movement or a school. But turning to a generalized art of structure, we can treat a tape as a tool box. And if we want to say something about what video artists do and to point out some tools that can be useful to others in this sort of activity, we should not rely mainly on picking apart works and evaluating them "aesthetically" just as we don't rely on the difficult method of engaging everyone who appeared in or helped make a tape in an open-ended dialectic about their intentions.

Our concern is with the continuities and transformations of structures and materials, and we should treat a work before us as more than simply a product to be interpreted. It is an example of a living art that not only adapts old materials to produce new combinations of sound and image, but also translates questions and problems into tractable formulations and constitutes new arts.

DON'T WALK lends itself so well to such a treatment both because it uses ambiguity and variation and because it works from an orientation where video can be used as an "art of arts". My use of music generalized to cover not only all sounds but all discourse about any subject-matter is an example of such an art. I wished to show with it that an art by which we get an insight into the way that an artist uses arts is similar to the way in which he does in fact use them. Or, more compactly: an "art of arts" is in no sense a "meta-art".

Further, I have tried to indicate that producing and using--like process and product, device and genre, form and matter--are different aspects of the same art. This is something that we usually see as extremely desirable when we talk about the sciences, considered as particular fields of knowledge and production. There we are quite concerned about the lack of thought about destructive uses of new inventions, the separation of facts from values, the helplessness of those who make discoveries from a position of knowledge in relation to those who apply discoveries from a position of power, or the many other formulations of the separation of theory and practice. If we turn to the arts for help, we see that the problem is not simply that people and professions that produce are not those that use, but that the two activities are usually considered to be totally different in their ends and to be


pursued in different ways.

Video, as exampled by DON'T WALK, gives us a way of using all the arts that have great philosophic adaptability. But video widened to include all television arts also organizes the other arts. Television seems at first glance, then, to be like what Aristotle calls a Master Art, Politics, that "determines which branches of knowledge ought to exist in states, which each class of citizens may learn, and to what extent." And further, "Since this knowledge uses the rest of the branches of knowledge, and since, moreover, it legislates what people are to do and what they are not to do, its ends embrace the ends of the other branches of knowledge." (NICHOMACHEAN ETHICS, 1094b) In some countries, television does have an increasingly pervasive function of determining what we see or hear or learn, who can do so, and to what extent, as well as the function of a supposed forum for public debate and decision. But television is still for other ends: of sponsors, governments, for other arts as a display place or medium. However, both formally and materially, television is a product of, and a good model for, a genuine Master Art which has a sufficient degree of universalization. Technology is quite literally the science (logos) of art (techne), which produces not only machines like the computer but also the science and art of cybernetics, but which applications are developed and understood with an orientation toward further discovery and application of things, words, and arts.

If it is true that the person who invented the camera invented photography, it is also true that the person who invents the arts of video invents the television.

Copyright 1973 by Terry Moyemont.

DON'T WALK, 50 minutes, b/w Sony AV. Produced by Barry Schwartz and others. Distributed by the Cultural Alternatives Network, 20199 Princeton Avenue, Riverside, California 92507.

The Genre Named Anec- Document 
                                            By Tom Drysdale



Tom Drysdale sculpts, carves tombstones, teaches photography, and has done videotape. As assistant to the director of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, he organized the First National Videotape Competition. He presently teaches in the Department of Film, Radio, and Television at New York University.

After screening ULTRA-VIOLET: 42nd STREET, submitted by producer Joel Gold to the editors of this issue for review, I realized I had a problem. My initial response to the work fell somewhere between boredom and indignation at being asked to review such a work. My difficulty was in ascertaining the appropriate responsible role for an amateur critic who has done similar inferior work with tape in the midst of a naive and overly romanticized alternate media culture.

After viewing many hundreds of hours of such tape, I can categorize Joel's as being similar to most of these other works.

Happily though there are enough examples of good and excellent work available to expose the lesser work for what it is. Consequently, I would like to venture some observations about this genre of videotape which I call an anec-document (that is, an anecdotal documentary, a high personal stenographic narrative of an event or a situation). In doing so, I may be taking unfair advantage of Joel and his work, for I will be violating the social code of rather consistent mutual toleration, if not admiration, which has typified the face-value image of the radical software or hardware movement. In fact, Joel's work


is qualitatively better than most anec-documents. My intention is to point out the need for more self-appraisal and consequently more constructive self-criticism.

ULTRA-VIOLET: 42nd STREET, with its Warhol Girl and its notorious association with one of the camp focal points of the alternate, no-longer-sub-culture, does not as a work fulfill the expectations raised by its title. In this case, the title hails one's attention most directly. But either the title is incidental to the work, or the work is incidental to the title. This could be intentional hype, or simply someone struggling to identify as well as possible, an event with a personal significance tied to the presence of Ultraviolet.

Objectively, it is a depiction of a semiprofessional recording session, with snatches of Ultra fawning for the camera, fits of apologetic tap dancing from someone who resembles Harold, from HAROLD AND MAUDE, and a good number of shots of a hard-working piano player who, with the help and confusion of several other musicians, tries to hammer out a funky arrangement of the tune, "42nd Street." One assumes a flirtation is going on between Joel and a flautist, who is the subject of several zoom-in, zoom-out sequences and far more monitor time than the titled star. Occasional pans to groupies and friends passing a joint, as well as some zooming close-ups of hundred watt light bulbs occur before the tape halts. It could not be called an ending, because the arrangement of the song is never completed; the subject matter is not resolved. Obviously someone ran out of tape.

On the brighter side, the tape does offer some insights into the repetitious and difficult methods that must be undertaken to produce music. Moments of the piece amused me because I've spent a considerable amount of time rehearsing and screwing up music ten times in a row before it worked out properly. One becomes aware of the delicate human relationships and sensitivities, in terms of patience and responsiveness to each other, from some of the references in Joel's work. It is unfortunate that Joel does not do more to explore this element of the event, and that he permits it to lie buried in the weeds.

There are vocal exponents of the rambling ethic caught up in the "that it is" of video and the "that I am associated with it" (as opposed to "what it is" and "what can I do with it") who argue that the medium is beyond criticism. "Everything goes! It is the critics who spoiled commercial television, along with the mundane demands of public opinion." These are frequently the same missionaries who sell the software/hardware revolution, and who resist standards or relative qualifications for the medium at any level, because the myth or prophesy is thereby reduced by definition. Obviously, the advantage of personal tapes is the fact that they are so personal. The point where judgment becomes important, however, is when someone offers his work (or in some cases, panders his work) to the public. This public could be either a packed house at The Kitchen, or me, as a reviewer for RADICAL SOFTWARE.

During the initial years of the revolution with an audience naive about the real potential of the medium, this was possible. It was even defensible, given the fact that despite its poor quality, it showed the comparable inferiority of broadcast television. Pre-packaged and pre-digested television was just as bad as unpackaged and unorganized videotape. Poor or incomplete editing was blamed on faulty equipment and there were enough good tapes around, which could be identified simply because there was so little available material, to lend credibility to the inflated claims of radical salesmen. What was formerly viewed as anti-establishment video vérité, at least in terms of anec-documents, must now be more carefully considered in terms of improved available equipment and the impact of such tape upon the information revolution.

The political self-consciousness of the late sixties and early seventies, with its accompanying feelings of impotence, combined with the public embrace of McLuhan, made the emergence of the video scene a tempting playground, particularly with its built-in credibility potential for political and social change. Limited equipment offered the romance of elitism, and institutions, anxious to appease militant hustlers, often footed the bill. Marathon Warhol documentaries and stoned-out boredom excused and licensed the first anec-documents, and their firm entrenchment in the video scene is a matter of record. But the glut of inferior work, as viewed by an increasingly sophisticated audience, has resulted in a diminishing


public trust in the medium.

The difference between a Warhol documentary and most anec-documents can be found in the subject matter, or lack of it. The limited editing and stationary camera, as well as the absence of broadcast television censorship, might be the same. But original material informs, and Warhol's voyeuristic excursions into forbidden worlds succeeded despite their length because of the degree of novelty, both for the stars seeing themselves, as well as the subsequent paying audiences. Similarly, documentary tapes such as TRANSSEXUALS, produced by Global Village, work because they inform a general audience. It should be noted, however, that the TRANSSEXUALS tape, as well as Global Village's V.D. EPIDEMIC, were carefully edited from extensive footage, and further, they represent a more objective group perspective.

Documentaries can succeed purely on the basis of subject matter. Great documentaries combine style and subject matter. Without a compelling or an entertaining subject, style is fluff. Some people, convinced of the power of video, believe that video is style, or a style of expression. By recording and playing back a sequence of events, the processing itself legitimizes the occasion for some. Certainly in the beginning of the movement, and even now, the presence of video equipment at an affair of whatever consequence noticeably changes the atmosphere and seems to heighten its significance. How many of us have felt the satisfactory humility of by-standers when we carry a portapack? "put away your Nikon, pal. This is hardware." In ULTRA-VIOLET: 42nd STREET, Joel uses the camera as an extension of his very personal eye, as it darts about the room like a moth, lighting on this or that image. Editing is inconsequential, for there is a great deal of repetitive, extraneous material present in the 20-minute tape. There is also an absence of material that the scene suggests should be present, such as the completed rendition of the much practiced work.

Television has a personality by which it is known to each of us, as complex as any person with whom we might spend an equal amount of time. So powerful is the character (and McLuhan's characterization) of this personality that we feel the frustration of its limits and, consequent to the availability of alternate video equipment, we discharge ourselves like Oedipus in subverting the television's character to our egos and our uses. The equipment becomes the Instamatic of the bourgeoisie, but there is a danger in the ease with which the half-inch hardware permits us to curse and screw through the father screen. The catharsis is only temporary and, while we might romanticize ourselves, we have not even begun to challenge the Parent Television's omnipotence.

For several years, the viability of video information systems has survived on promises more than the realization of them. Ironically, it is the power of the medium itself that enables even the short-sighted and inadequate utilization to succeed after a fashion. But the problems of mass mis-communication are so great and pervasive that, from a purely ethical basis, one might consider videotape equipment as 20th century Golems, of which there are a certain number available, each with the power to produce conscientious and significant work. (A Golem is a character from Jewish mythology, created by the rabbi of an oppressed ghetto community to save his people from an abusive king. Here, the magical omnipotence of the powers of darkness enable the Golem, an automaton, to save the situation. But when a young man tries to capitalize on the Golem and his powers for personal gain, the Golem destroys him. Moral: Great power must only be used carefully, for great purposes, or it will destroy whoever attempts to turn it to personal advantage.) Just as a car can be used as an ambulance or a drag racing machine, so can the VTR be used for purposes of different relative meaning.

The equipment can be seen as a tool, and used as such; a toy, and wasted as such; and an icon, symbolizing man's relationship with the omnipotent television system, with the vague hint of recourse. This last alternative seems less objectionable than the second, but is in fact another form of cop-out. Unfortunately, there are many idol worshippers, associated with the symbol, and not the principles and potentials it represents. These are often the anec-documentarians, pursuing their variations on Walter Cronkite's YOU ARE THERE routine. Here, the theme is more appropriately: I WAS THERE, and I suspect that the personal references in the work, which


often obscure the subject matter, reflect a fear of removing one's self from the tape, and consequently, the stage.

The most practical standard of criticism in videotape, as in other information or entertainment media, is a function of the audience for whom the work is intended. Those persons immediate to the production of the anec-document, or their friends and relatives, might find the statement fascinating, much as they cherish Uncle Harry's movies of the Everglades. Marveling at the "spontaneity" and "refreshing" quality of the work, audiences new to the Medium are taken with the non-packaged effect. Because of the oppressive presence of the commercial television format, and the predictable formulae used there, any breach of conduct or departure from this norm may have a positive effect upon the viewers. Their favorable reaction is frequently not to the subject of the tape, out rather to the fact that it represents a statement against the broadcast standard, a statement in which they would like to join. But audiences who have become familiar with the videotape idiom are less inclined to view hours of work in order to glean minutes of relevant material.

The upshot of this nasty review relates directly to the problem of suicide for the radical software movement. As more and more tape is being recorded, a competitive system has to evolve, with producers of work taking editorial responsibility and not immature license. As for the compromises inherent in processing work for a general audience, these must be considered realistically and faced, if the tapemaker wishes the public to share in his work. Tapes of varying degrees of specialization should be reviewed in order to make them accessible to interested parties. (As long as we are dependent on the print medium for the simplest distribution of tape information, perhaps a segment of future issues of this magazine could be reserved for capsule reviews by the producers of the tapes themselves, with the understanding that a copy would be available for more detailed consideration. This might help to make us a bit more self-conscious and reduce the number of anec-documents that people willingly circulate.)

The larger issue is not the role of the critic or viewer, but the more important role of the individual, as he approaches the videotape medium. Each of us has the choice of cranking out fragments of our or other's experiences and placing them on the menu of mediocrity that represents so much of the available magnetic chaff. Or, we can be a bit more careful in considering existing communication pollution, and work to produce clearer and more coherent statements. If, in the process of editing a work, you find that it really does not have anything meaningful to contribute to other people's experience, then please do not hand them your albatross.

Copyright 1973 by Thomas Drysdale.

ULTRA-VIOLET: 42nd STREET, about30 minutes b/w Sony AV Made by Joel Gold Distributed by the Alternate Media Center 144 Bleecker Sreet New York


by R. G. Davis.


R. G. Davis. Chairman of the Theatre Department at Columbia College, Chicago, founded the First Guerrilla Theatre group in the USA.

Filmmakers have an increasing tendency, due to maximized production and consumption, to view life via films. By learning of Jamaica from a documentary, or of Uruguay from a spy-mystery thriller, we are fast developing a break with reality. These merely begin to indicate the corruption of perception that lies underneath our eyeballs.

If filmmakers see life via film do tapemakers see their own lives when they tape themselves? The tape LIFESTYLES offers a three level onanistic view of the group of people who made this tape about one blubbery New Yorker, Joe De Voto, and his pleasant-faced wife, discussing women's liberation with their friend Nancy, who does most of the interviewing.

Technically, this tape is in the style of most half-inch. The camera zooms in and out trying to find focus. Close-ups dissolve into blurred images. The camera swings, no pans, as it tries to pick up conversation across a long table. Periodically we are forced to look at a reactive face yet can't understand the meaning of the face since it is not reacting to the dialogue, but rather to the camera's focus.

The videotapers are there, too. We see interviewers and microphone, which has a mothlike quality. It floats in and out on a long stick, flying through the air to get at the voice that is about to speak.

When the video plague (half-inch hysteria) began in earnest a few years ago, white middle class youths purchased a portapack and a profession with $2,000 and transformed themselves into freaks, elevating a technological achievement into a revolution. Fortunately history and reality erode hyperbole, and the irrational claims of total vertical revolutionary capabilities with a portapack are declining. With this tape, however, we still see the residue of bad camera work, superficial preparation for investigation and self-congratulatory images.

As the camera swings from face to face, we get the impression that via the magic of the vidicon tube we will fathom the problems of these people. But we cannot, unless we know those faces, their history, and their moral career. The home tape is most valuable if we know the home. Without this, it is hard to understand the debate. If appears foreign to us and we learn little.

The tape is charming and humorous. It gives some insights into the structure of the problem, yet it provides little or no information about the entire problem of women's liberation. Nobody alludes to the spectrum of the women's movement. There are radical lesbians and anti-imperialist women; there are NOW reformists and Marxist theoreticians who are struggling, along with a generally disturbed populace, to come to grips with the family and the role of women in a capitalist society.

Nowhere in the tape do the makers interpose any knowledge or indicate the intensity of the movement. None of us would go to a therapist who didn't appear to know more than we about our social problems, and a good homemade therapeutic tape


could, if worked well, make sense out of random data.

Ciné- vérité is a falsifying methodology. It presumes that by presenting images we will be able to understand the historical and material process. Just as if one goes to a demonstration and is brutalized by the police one will become radicalized and comprehend the entire structure of society with one clubbing. The "truth" is to be seen in the Watergate hearings, the best home movie of the year. Senator Ervin made it clear when he addressed John Dean: "We will understand the veracity of your testimony by your response to the questions, how you react to them, and corroborating evidence." This is accurate. Through dialectical process we understand the truth, or better, we understand that which is a good description of reality.

In LIFESTYLES, two women, one with glasses and black dress, the other long-haired, are seen discussing the role of women. (Later we recognize the long-haired woman as Nancy, the friend-liberator. I didn't realize the first woman with glasses was the wife of the blubbery New Yorker until the second viewing because away from Joe she sheds her demure manner. A director friend said it took her three-quarters of the tape to figure out that the woman with glasses was the blubber's wife. We did agree, however, that Nancy looked like she was putting on a number. Those of us who are actors and directors and know the mechanisms of performance can see baloney more readily than those who work in sausage factories.)

The role of mother is discussed as an Old World abstraction. No indication is made that a mother might be a useful human being, one who is a writer and a diaper changer, a community work and a feeder of two faces, a model of exemplary social behavior as well as the reprimander of bad children.

Neither the husband nor wife view the role of mother as concrete: washing, cleaning, feeding, caring are to them abstractions. However, if her labor were viewed as a part of his "career labor", then perhaps they might proceed to some rational division of work and not continue this abstract ideological and psychological discussion with no end in sight or probable.

Husband Joe is the center of focus much of the time. I suspect the cameraman to be a man, for the total focus of the hot-air big talker doesn't allow us to see what his wife is saying or feeling. The questioners do not flesh out her insights nor her problems; rather, we continually see him waving his hands and dramatically making false points: "Listen, it's a matter of one...two...three..."

The final confrontation at the table is arbitrated by Nancy, who says: "It will cost $100 a week to replace her; I'll help you find someone."

Another voice: "Another nigger in the house."

Nancy in her glib number offers a solution only probable in middle class homes. Poorer women, as oppressed as this mother, do not have the opportunity of hiring others to do their chores. What about that? No comment in the discussion and no thought from the camera-and-sound questioning team.

Will he liberate her? Will she liberate herself? Will he help? There is no analysis to help the viewer with these questions.

There is no special language needed to discuss videotapes, no special methodology other than the one we use to view everything. We understand things, as Senator Ervin says, by comparison with other evidence while using our eyes and ears to comprehend the "facts" right in front of us.

At the very minimum videotape cameramen and women are camera people and should learn how to use the instrument correctly. At the


maximum, we would like to have a more intelligent, perceptive and sensuous investigation of important problems. We have enough soap suds on commercial TV. 

Copyright 1973, by R. G. Davis

LIFESTYLES--AN EXPERIMENT IN FEEDBACK. B/W, 39 minutes, Sony AV-3650. Available from Global Village, 454 Broome Street~ New York, New York 10012. Produced by John Reilly.


Review  "CONFRONTATION ON 4th STREET "                 
by Steve Landsman

Steve Landsman, the Peter Watkins of half-inch videotape, is associated with Humvideo, at the University of Chicago, His major credit is SIT-IN.

When I was in high school, I became a spotter in order to get to see football games for nothing. My job was to stand there and see who made tackles and assists on plays, and then to tell the PA announcer. On the first play, the whole team pounced on poor old Jim Leahy. I thought that it was probably either 14 or 27 who made the initial contact, so I told the announcer that 27 made the tackle, with an assist by 14. Immediately, I heard over the speakers "Ball carried by Number 18, Jim Leahy, tackled by 27, Sewiki, assisted by 14, Sturdevant." And my first reaction was to think "yup. I was right. They just announced it." (That's feedback! )

Which is somewhat the position we are in with underground video. We are used to watching a version of truth on the tube, and now we find it in our hands; it is our illusion machine. What do we do with it? How do we interpret what comes over the box now that the direction the signals are coming from has changed? The problem with criticizing works of half-inch video now is they demand a narrowness of treatment as being sui generis. There are few paradigms in the half-inch universe to allow more than comment on how well the work accomplished what it set out to do.

I looked at CONFRONTATION ON 4th STREET, by Brent Sharmen of the New York Switchboard, and distributed by the Alternate Media Center. Briefly, the concrete situation involves the problem of overlapping biological niches on 4th Street in Greenwich Village. The street is claimed by both the street people and by the homedwellers/owners/renters.

Sharmen handled the situation as a media piece by first sitting the street people on church steps and questioning them about their lives. For half an hour, with one edit and one pan over the turf, the camera stays on the people talking. Then, he grouped some homedwellers on the steps of an apartment building across the street. They spoke mainly of what a drag it was having street people on the block.

During the second part, one of the street people comes on, and is told to leave. The street people have had their say; now it is the residents' turn. But more street people come, and attempt to debate. It is not in the format, they are told. An exchange takes place anyway. The tape ends, after fifty-six minutes, with a decided difference in opinion.

So, how do you judge the tape? The problem of orientation in a new world: what is a tape? What can be done on a tape? How well has it been accomplished here? (So, to talk about a tape as something other than its subject material, we do construct paradigms.


A tape can be an expression of personal opinion. In fact, it is almost impossible that it would not be. Sharmen makes his prejudices visible. At the beginning of the tape, he says that street people are looked down upon and not listened to, and it is time that they be heard. But outside of occasional prods, he pretty much lets both sides just talk. Outside of the framing of the situation, it does not fall in the category of a personal tape.

A tape can be entertainment. And, for people--mostly sociologists-who get off on other people rapping, this tape is entertaining. But most audiences are not sociologists.

A tape can be information. If it is for information, we must learn something. What do we see in the tape? Pretty much the faces of those talking. The area in which the action takes place is not explored--we get two brief shots outside the speaking areas. After the initial impact of meeting the people, there is nothing added. It's like a still. Visually, it's a confined tape. The bulk of the information is in the audio--a televised radio show, Dick Cavett in the streets, but secular now, outside of the temple/studio. We get the situation. The landed folk make it clear over and over that the street people are a total bummer, and cannot be lived with. We see a clash of style, but learn little of the people. Those from the apartments spend their half-hour in self-righteous indignation, detailing the filth and violence surrounding the street people. The street people tell about how raunchy, but friendly, their world is.

The people look familiar, almost stereotyped. They look like television people. Because they are television people. They censor each other's language, "because we're on television." They can't move as they might, because they are operating in a fixed format.

And we see a problem with video as a pure information medium. In the preparation of biological slides, cutting tissues with a microtome produces artifacts: stretching of membranes, distortion of organelles, even the apparent production of new structures. Portapaks in the field act like a microtome cutting a slice to be viewed, and it creates artifacts in the same say. We will see in front of it only those who feel comfortable in front of it, only a portion of the indigenes. It will attract crowds, it will create its own activity. It is an application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle that one cannot observe without influencing. And those in front of a TV camera are heavily influenced.

They are on TV, and are accustomed to a certain type of behavior on TV. Children of McLuhan, they treat it as the mother medium, and try to act like those they see.

So, as information, it is imprecise. People are revealing themselves, and in context. But it is a context that is as yet undefined. We don't really know how to break the code of the behavior yet. We have a point in space without parallax. Unless there is some attempt to pin down artifact, which there isn't, the information received (or the social effect achieved) is questionable.

Another way of looking at tape is in terms of its utility for problem-solving--in effect, using the artifacts as the situation. Let the people state their views, play it back and let them see what they look like, and let the other side see, as well. This sort of tape may not be of much interest to those not involved, but it can be cathartic. CONFRONTATION ON 4th STREET does not give any indication of feedback. There are no references to the work within the work, as we might expect of there had been the usual feedback. Did the taping increase the participants' understanding of themselves or the others? There is no indication of this in the body of the tape, and rumor has it that the legal residents had the cops run


the street people out a few days later. Which is the effect those of us who were dealing with confrontations in the 60's would expect.

At present, half-inch video is viewed for the most part by those close to the source, pretty much because of the lack of distribution. But for there to be distribution, there must be an audience. And an audience will not stand to be told they must understand. Interest must be wooed. While the medium may be the message, the message must be given that this is a new medium. It is up to the mythical underground video community to discover what it is we hold in our hands, before the other guy tells us what it is "supposed to be." CONFRONTATION ON 4th STREET is not much help.

Copyright 1973 by Steve Landsman.

CONFRONTATION ON 4th STREET. 55 minutes, b/w, Sony AV. Produced by The Alternate Media Center, 144 Bleecker Street, New York, New York.


"FACES OF THE POOR"     Review By Barry Schwartz

I can think of no experience comparable to watching videotape. When I listen to radio I am absorbed only in software; the actual technology of radio long ago lost its visibility. When I look at a hologram I am fascinated only by hardware; the image content is of little interest. Yet when I watch videotape I am required to look through the eyes of novelty.

My experience with video usually consists of both an appreciation of the software shown and the new aspects of the medium that happen to be demonstrated in a particular tape. Unlike film or other visual arts, tape presently lacks an articulated vocabulary. After years of film viewing, perceptions are formed by intimacy with the medium. One becomes able to categorize, observe familiarity, recognize influences, criticize cliches. The qualities of the medium become known, and the aesthetic judgment relates solely to how these qualities are enhanced, used, exploited or undermined by a specific film. The vocabulary of film has been given to us by a past generation that developed cinématic literacy--an artistic/philosophic stance toward the film experience.

Videotape is a new medium, spawning relatively few offspring and without a history. Instead we have watched TV many years before ever seeing video. So when I watch a tape I am not sure if I am responding to the qualities of the medium or how well or how individually these innovations were accomplished in the specific tape appearing on the monitor. Similarly, I have never made a tape that did not also lead to a discovery of the medium's possibilities.

Reviewing a tape! What does it mean? Since there are no guide lines for the evaluation of a unique tape I am certainly not comfortable in a "critical" posture. At this time I believe the only intelligent action is to describe the experience of watching the tape to be reviewed.

Although I have seen a lot of tape I would not bother to describe,


FACES OF THE POOR is eminently worthy of discussion. Throughout it I sat mesmerized in front of the monitor. Before me was revealed a sequence of faces, tired faces, lined, drawn, pained faces. They were cut faces, and closed faces. They did not smile; they were numb or defiant or imploded or urban weather-beaten. Each face stayed before me for what became an intolerably long time. Confronted with each face, I found myself going down, and down lower. Looking back at me for what seemed an eternity, each face pulled something from me, draining me. After awhile I got angry. I did not want to look anymore. It was not pleasurable, not fun..

My eyes shifted from side to side seeking relief from the continuous emotional sameness within the uniqueness of each face. I asked myself if I should get up, get away, turn to some relief for the ache that was growing inside me. At every moment I was bombarded by the pain of the multitude, the anonymous losers, the oppressed and the afflicted. I was, at the same time, feverishly working through my mind the morality of my position.

Yes, I was captive before a monitor. I was looking at something I did not want to see. I was participating in an experience I did not want to engage. At first, what kept me there was a desire to sit out the tape, to appease those who showed it to me, to oblige the video maxim, "I'll look at your tape and you look at mine." But then, from within me, came the recognition that these faces, these two-dimensional spirit images on a video screen, were also the faces I meet in offices, on the subways, in supermarkets. How unforgivable that their owners wear these faces most of the time! Not ugly really, these faces were the faces of the poor; not masks--faces! And the faces told of their lives, of their days, of the wearing-out process some knew as life itself. These faces were what people were made into. Their faces told of what was done to them. Poverty is a plastic surgeon with evil intent.

And who was I, if I looked away? An abyss opened up before me. I sat with an existential question, answerable only by an essential voice within me, telling me who I am and what I believe.

FACES OF THE POOR is one of the best examples I have seen of what I call humanist tape. Though I perceived the hardware--in this case a sophisticated use of a single camera and primitive cut-and-tape mechanical editing, how the tape was made seemed unimportant. Though the software could be perceived as software, I quickly became involved in an experience of great intensity created by the impact of the software on me. Thus, the actual experience of this reviewer has little to do with my appreciation of or indifference to hardware and software. FACES OF THE POOR was that rare tape which asked to be evaluated by the experience it created rather than by its prowess in technological muscularity or its "never before shown on the big screen" software. It was a meaningful exception to the Flash Gordon, light show psychedelic, abstract composition, "man-in-the-world" documentary, radical public service type tapes I have been seeing lately. FACES OF THE POOR created in video a major conflict between pleasure and pain, between escape and commitment, between the desire for illusions and a passion for the truth. It is this experience in art and life I call humanist. It gives us the opportunity to decide, at that moment, whether we want to live or die, submit to a conception of reality smaller than the truth, or demand recognition within ourselves for what it is.

I have seen a lot of video used in therapy, in "new consciousness," consciousness-raising sessions, in feedback-to-self experiments. FACES OF THE POOR did more than I have seen before. It made me choose. It was more than new data; it aided self-definition.


I do not know how much of my experience with the tape was defined by me. I do not know how often others will have a same or similar experience with it. It doesn't matter.

I recall a past experience, months ago. I sat in a chair while my face was taken for a thirty-minute alteration under the skillful guidance of Nam June Paik and through the technology of his video synthesizer. It was a fascinating experience, sometimes frightening, sometimes joyous. My life seemed to unfold as I was led into the affective influence of colors and the provocative manipulation of distortion. But in the end, I was not touched within. I had a lot of new information about my subjective states. Yet, the experience left me intact--feeling more aware of myself, more insightful into fancies and fears--but essentially intact. FACES OF THE POOR demanded that I identify myself. The images that passed before me like an assembly line of monotonous deficiency insisted on engagement with others or required that I armor myself against the realities of other human lives. I am stronger for having chosen as I did.

I am sure that someone will see FACES OF THE POOR, and after incorporating the techniques involved in making the tape, will produce a faces of something or other. It may be shot more effectively, employ more novel software, be edited more selectively, feature a better sound track. It may be heavier or lighter, superficial or profound. I may very well come to see it sometime. And when and if I do will remember FACES OF THE POOR as original, effective, and one of the more important experiences I have had sitting in front of a monitor.

Copyright 1973, by Barry Schwartz.

FACES OF THE POOR, produced by ANAGRAM PICTURES, 7328 South Euclid Street, Chicago, Illinois 60649. b/w, 15 minutes, Sony, AV.

HUMAN CONNECTION AND THE NEW MEDIA, edited by Barry N. Schwartz. (Prentice-Hall, 1973.) From the jacket: "The essays in this volume examine what the new media are, what their potential is, and how they may open avenues for human connections. . Evaluating the revolutionary aspects of the new media are such distinguished contributors as John Lilly, Peter Goldmark, Buckminster Fuller, and Isaac Asimov."





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