by Joanne Kelly

_ A Blade of Grass: Comments on Video


In 1978, we presented in our weekly video showing series the videomakers included in this book. From the ~ start. | felt that the series should reflect a broad range

of video styles, including abstract video imagery, art- ists’ videotapes, performance video and documen- taries. We presented San Francisco videomakers as well as hosting several videomakers who live in other parts of the country. The depth and breadth of the

showing series has remained an amazement to me. The |

year has been full of appointments and screenings of new works that continue to surprise me regarding all ihe possible uses of the medium. From seeing all this work. | have some strong feelings about the state of the art and would like to share them here.

The best place to start is examining abstract video imagery. It all began in San Francisco at the National Center for Experiments in Television at KQED-TV in the 60’s. The NCET project was sponsored by the Rock- efeller Foundation under the direction of Brice Howard (now at a PBS station in Texas) and Paul Kaufman (now doing research at Stanford University). The idea was to give a number of people the freedom to exper!- ment within a television context and see what could evolve out of that. The NCET broadcast a series of ab- stract video imagery called “Electronic Notebooks . oublished books such as “Videospace”. held confer- ences/ workshops and presented a huge unique instal- lation called ‘‘Videola” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as showing tapes at other closed

_ Circuit showings, including one at Video Free America. This year, more than a decade since NCET was founded. we showed the works of Stephen Beck and Bill Roarty.


The NCET gave Beck the freedom to develop and

build his direct video synthesizer. Recently, he has

expanded to design and build prototype electronic toys for manufacturers. Roarty presented his collaborations with graphic artist Bernard Blake. Roarty has become interested in freezing a single abstract video image and transferring it to the print medium. |

The beginnings of San Francisco video art was in the hands of NCET artists as well as Video Free America feedback artist, Skip Sweeney. These artists were drawn to understanding and exploring the possibilities of the technology and had a strong technical grasp of

_ alternative uses of the video circuitry. If they wanted to

flip or color an image; they had to design and builda tool to make that happen. This was also true of the east coast video art in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Nam June ©

Paik built his synthesizer, as did Bill and Louise Etra.

The Etras now live in the Bay Area. Presently, they are researching the possiblities of interfacing computer and video technology. Some of their new tools will be unveiled at the 1979 Video Expo in San Francisco.

_ Other east coast pioneers whose work we have pre- sented this past year include Woody and Steina

Vasulka, the founders of the Kitchen in New York. They (as well as the Etras) have been researching computer- video interfacing. They have been experimenting pri- marily at Media Study in Buffalo, New York. At their VFA showing they explained with charts and tapes the recent direction of their experimental work. The works

_ of these artists was the first “video art’. It was identi-

fiable to a broad audience as “art” because the shapes, designs and patterns were clearly very different from what was seen on TV.

Since these first explorations this form of video art abstract video imagery has been the recipient of a great deal of criticism. It is referred to as video wallpaper,

i.e. just designs and patterns. It is criticized for never going anywhere, for lacking content, for merely being a succession of pretty pictures. Often these criticisms were justified. Because of this, electronic video image- ry has been utilized primarily to create more sophis-


ticated title graphics for television series and station identification and/or by the feature film industry to ex- pand the vocabulary of special effects. Ron Hayes is perhaps the best example of an artist who has done this kind of crossover with his work from PBS-TV art tapes to special effects for science fiction feature films.

It seems to me that electronic video imagery has yet to hit its stride and that instead of a withdrawal of interest and funding it needs a shove over the edge... into an identity. Electronic video imagery makers need to be given a chance to make and broadcast works that are more than graphic dazzle spots in the middle of | somebody’s documentary or situation comedy. lron- ically, in the past year these opportunities in the Bay Area have been coming from commercial stations.

_KPIX-TV’s Burt Arnowitz interviewed Stephen Beck on ©

his works and aired his tapes, as did KGO-TV’s Ken Ellis on Skip Sweeney’s abstract video imagery. These are encouraging signs, yet we wait for a program man- ager willing to dare to make a larger, consistent com- mitment to abstract video imagery.

We also have shown tapes made by artists who don't work exclusively with video. These artists such as Char- lemagne Palestine, Paul Kos, Suzanne Lacy and Howard Fried have established their original voice in music, sculpture or performance. Their videotapes are often a video treatment of concepts and vocabulary that have established them in other media. Artists’ videotapes face a whole realm of new problems and possibilities. Since these artists for the most part do not have an everyday working vocabulary established with video; they have two choices. One is that they can make simple unedited black and white low resolution video works. The other choice is to collaborate with a video engineer on the shooting and editing of amore

complex tape. For the most part, artists’ tapes over the |

past few years have fallen into the first category. They have often been boringly long and full of sync and

other problems that distract the viewer from the inten- tion of the tape. Artists’ videotapes have a history of a


yawning gap between intention and actualization. If we all simply didn’t have broadcast television in our minds as areference analogy the problems of duration and technical quality might not exist. But, television permeates our entire culture down to the preschooler singing commercial jingles like a nursery rhyme. Artists simply can’t escape the broadcast television re- ference their work implies when it is shown on the same type of box that brings us “Charlie’s Angelis” and “The Brady Bunch’. This has been an almost insur- mountable problem in aporeciating the intention of artists’ videotapes.

Some artists who have shown at VFA, such as Suzanne Lacy, and to a certain extent Howard Fried and Paul Kos, choose the option of hiring or coliabo- rating with a video engineer to avcid technical limita- tions to the appreciation of the content of their work. Suzanne Lacy is perhaps the extreme example of this. She creates events/performances that the news media tapes and edits for broadcast. This kind of coliective authorship of an artist’s videotape is often the most fruitful in closing the gap between the artist’s intention and actualization of the work.

For some artists collective authorship is totaily un- acceptable. They feel a need to work privately on the actualization of a concept or impression. The most en- gagingly successful of these simple black & white videotapes is when they are presented in a multi- monitor installation. In an installation of several moni- tors, with different pre-recorded channels we can begin to escape from the ingrained expectations of broadcast television and give the video work space to reveal to us the intention of the artist. In this multi-channei genre the Video Free America showing of Max Almy’s tapes was particularly evocative. Her use of the different monitors/channels to portray different peopie at dif- ferent points in time, gave this half-inch black & white tape depth of interest, intelligence and a kind of simple elegance of design. |

Another way of escaping the expectations of broad- cast television is by creating video performance works.

4 - e

Some people confuse documenting a performance for video performance work, that is not what | am referring to here by video performance works. The distinction is probably best explained by Darryl Sapien’s Video Free America screening. Sapien performed “Within the Nucleus” at the SFMMA in which he built a tall struc- ture while wearing a video camera harnessed to his body. The performance of “Within the Nucleus” was a video performance, but the tape he presented at VFA of _ the performance was not a work of art in itseil. If was _ an archival document of the event. it is interesting to view this archival documentation if you couldn't be there to experience the video performance, but all per- formances loose something with this removai from the immediacy of performance. Actual video performances combine the immediacy of live interaction with the complexity and distance of pre-recorded or live video. Sharon Grace’s video performance at VFA involved the use of telephone lines to send and receive a live video signal back and forth across the continent. Fiske smith’s VFA video performance inciuded pre-recorded and live imagery in performance with more theatrical references in terms of script, dialogue and staging. Livia Blakman’s video performance had strong refer- ences to dance. | Video performances often are an interesting combi- nation of the best of television, (immediacy the capa- bility for instant visualization) and the best of the per- forming arts, be it theater, dance or music. In 1979, Video Free America will be showing more video per- formance works in a separate series, created especially to showcase the particularly rich possibilities of video performance. This special series will be made possible by an alternative art space grant from the National En- dowment for the Arts. The largest amount of video funding dollars these

days is going to documentaries. There are two reasons -

for that. First, groups such as TVTV (who showed an anthology of tapes at VFA) have shown that documen- taries don’t have to be dry, pedantic affairs that induce sleep better than Sominex. TVTV pioneered the parti- Cipatory documentary, which gave the viewer the

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feeling of actually being at the convention in the case of ‘‘Four More Years”; or in the White House as in “Gerald Ford’s America’. They dispensed with the for- mal distance, asserted a point of view with the editing and dropped the dry narration. Television audiences across the country woke up. Secondly, there is an increasing loss of appeal for the “variety show” format and networks are scrambling to try to replace it. The docu-drama is the likely hybrid, trying out its wings. But with the excellent ratings “60 Minutes” has been receiving, network executives are giving a second thought to more documentary programming also.

In the VFA Showing Series we presented documen- taries by PBS producers such as Skip Blumberg ("For a Moment You Fly”), commercial television producers, such as Ken Ellis, (“Bay Scene”), and closed circuit producers such as Richard Weiss (“Arcology: Paulo Soleri’’).

In the VFA Showing Series we presented documen- taries by PBS producers such as Skip Blumberg (“Fora Moment You Fly’), commercial television producers, such as Ken Ellis, (“Bay Scene), and closed circuit producers such as Richard Weiss (“Arcology: Paulo soieri).

Independent documentary producers are beginning to make their presence felt a little more by television stations. Many PBS stations have always been fairly open to independent documentary programs as a source of “cheap” programs. Recently, with the WNET- TV documentary fund a few independents are getting a chance to do more than make inexpensive programs. Also, commercial stations are beginning to feel pressure from independents to include them in their scheduling. The Pennebacker/Maysle etc. suit against ABC-NBC-CBS will bring the issue to the forefront. The independent documentary community aside, the

-general public also has expressed an increased desire

to hear about diverse topics from various points of view and the independent seems the likely supplier.

As an independent producer (“Abortion: The Divisive leayre”’, “Lake Tahoe: the Politics of Ecology’) | am


relieved and encouraged by the funding sources and litigation which adaresses the need to see more inde- pendent productions on television. At the same time, | feel the discussions and funding projects are missing the point. In many cases, there is not alot of difference between what an in-house producer and an independent producer would choose to cover. An example is Bob Klein, producer of “People’s Five’ at KPIX-TV decided to do an investigative documentary on nuclear power. He shot in California and Washing- ton D.C., uncovered some coniroversial facets of the issue and won a Du Pont-Columbia award for broad- cast journalism. On the other hand, Don Widener, an independent, received money from the CPB documen- tary fund to do adocumentary on nuclear power and few PBS stations are willing to air the program. Often, the difference is not in the producer's but in the pro- gram managers. The proram managers decide what topics by whom get on the air. The bottom line is edu- cating program managers to be open to taking dares with programming, to cover tough subjects, and to stand up for the producer whether they are in-house or independent. PBS program managers especially seem to have an atrophied sense of judgement in these matters. Perhaps, many have just gotten used to taking the feeds and doing “how to” shows and have forgotten how criticaily their values and tastes forecast what their region will be able to perceive and understand about the world at large.

As you can see, Video Free America has shown an incredibly diverse group of tapes over the past year. All the videomakers have their “special something” that they bring to this multi-faceted medium.

| hope this anthology inspires some readers to make more and better tapes and gives other readers a more detailed understanding of the uniquely diverse poten- tialities of the medium.

Joanne Kelly

Viark Allen

Video music is the basis for “Spring Fever” a video- tape retrospective by Mark Ailen. The tapes are pre- sented in two twenty minute albums, “Past Fantasies” and “Sacred & Profane” which explore “rea! time” video imagery in its various aspects.

In “Past Fantasies” natura! forms such as trees, waier and clouds are combined with electronicaily generaied patterns, shapes and colors and synchro- nized with music. The resultant study of moving im- agery in space yields a heightened and abstracted interpretation of natural environments and subjective realities. In “Sacred and Profane” wave forms and feed- back are featured with improvisational jazz, electronic and Indian music. The feedback provides a backdrop for the mood of the particular musical score.

Mark Allen

- Max Aimy

Max Almy’s videotapes provide an entity comparable toa single book, with each chapter adding to and ex- panding the overall theme, yet each able to stand on iis own as well. For Max Almy the formal structure of the series is its common denominator. The seven tapes best describe this evolution in an installation situation where single image/single monitor tapes move to double (keyed-in) images on a single monitor, and then. develop into four monitor sequences. Her selection of subject matter, its timing and placement in the sequences, carefully develops the psychological im- pact of the series.

The scenarios describe personal and social encoun- ters. The first tape, for example, uses ten different stil! photos of a woman’s head in fashion poses. With these Stills the narrative presents ten subjective mood ques- tions: “If | loose ten pound will | be beautiful?” and “if | commit suicide, will you be sorry?” Repeated ten

times, the clauses are mixed and rearranged, each time adding unexpected implications to the initial questions. In this and other tapes with narration, fami- liar phrases used in conversation are isolated from context by repetition or the associated image, to the point where their intent to communicate seems hollow and superficial. |

In “Double Image, I’m Fine”, the keyed-in image of a second mouth contrasts the external conscious statement “I’m Fine” with its inner subconscious meaning “I’m not Fine’. A purely abstract counterpoint of images in “Double Image, Abstract’, juxtaposes moving and still shots of waves breaking, views of trees, rocks and streams.

For the four monitor pieces, the viewer is seated with a monitor in front, behind and on either side. In one sequence for this layout, “found” images and sounds, like aclock ticking, progress in acircle from one monitor to the next, varying from fast to slow, soft to loud. In another, the placement utilizes the front monitor for the narrative images, the rear monitor for the text spoken by a mouth image, and the side monitors for peripheral exposition of the story. In this format five images describe an encounter between two people; these are repeated with the same text three times. On the two side monitors, the evolution of their relationship is revealed in different interpretations of the action as each sequence is repeated. As the pieces become more structurally complex in the timing and pacing of images and narration on the four monitors, the emotional impact becomes more intense.

Max Almy has imaginatively investigated the capa- city for formal structure filled with human content, both emotional and psychoiogical. Her subject matter is engaging and easily identified with, while the state- ments she makes are thoughtful observations of human nature.

Suzanne Foley

Burt Arnowitz

Burt Arnowitz was invited to show tapes and speak on Video Free America’s “Meet Commercial Television Producers” night. Originally, Burt was one of the

_ founding members of Marin Community Video. He

had a cable television magazine format program. He was hired on KPIX-TV’s “Evening Show’ as the editor. Now he has moved on to be a field producer, and the show is syndicated nationally, by Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. He greatly enjoys his job on the “Evening Show’. He is allowed a great deal of free- dom to cover an event. He is paid for 40 hours of work a_ week, but out of love for the show usually puts in many more hours shooting and editing. The “Evening Show” has an unusual arrangement where the producer can both shoot with an ENG video camera, a TK-76, and edit his own segment of the program, with no union hassles. The content of the programs are decided at staff meetings where everyone throws in their ideas, including the hosts of the program Jan Yanihero and Steve Fox. The staff is allowed great freedom on what they want to cover because they get good ratings. So, management trusts their judgement. The show began two years ago trying to compete with the game show time slot. It airs every weekday at 7:30. Arnowitz says that he likes to do entertaining features that will move people in a positive way. At Video Free America he showed a tape on the artists’ soapbox derby sponsored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and alsoa piece on the low rider car cult. Asked if many viewers call or write in about his pieces, Arnowitz mentions that most often he gets calls asking where they can buy the record of the music he played under the action of his “Evening” piece. The highest rating the show re- ceived was for a program with Leif Garrett on it. Sometimes they do “celebrity” interviews as a way of maintaining their ratings, but they are basically confi- dent, what with the show going into national syndication this year, somebody out there likes what they do alot. Their toughest competition is the


“Newlywed Game”, which they have been running neck and neck with in the ratings for local programming in San Francisco. Sometimes the staff travels and does a few out of town programs on more serious subjects. They have travelled to the Panama Canal this year and are alSo going to Alaska.

Arnowitz said that one of the frustrations with his job is the “TV Guide” listings. At one point he even called up and talked to the person who writes the listings for “TV Guide”. It frustrates him that if he does an especially good piece, like the low riders piece, he has no way of telling the audience that it’s a particu- larly good program coming up and to watch out for it. The “TV Guide” doesn’t use superlatives in its listings because they feel that they wouid then be open for bribes. 7 |

The “Evening Show” staff seems like one big happy family of people working hard doing what they love to do, shoot and edit video pieces without severe | management or union restrictions. This situation is more unusual than one might think in the television industry. Arnowitz mentioned that there were a lot of casualties with the staff in the beginning (like going through 4 directors in 2 years). But, those problems have been worked out and now it’s smooth sailing.

Arnowitz says that the best reward for the hard work is when he’s shooting in the field and people just walk up to him and tell him they watch the show all the time and love it.

Kenn Beckman

Kenn Beckman with his shoulder length blond hair and grey brushed felt hat, passing out color xerox’s at the opening of his Video Free America retrospective tape showing, looked like he could have stepped right out of a hipper illustration of “Alice in Wonderland”. Indeed, his tapes for the evening reflected the “One pill makes you larger, one pill makes you small” philoso-

phy. Beckman has been working with video for the past |

ten years and he showed an anthology of his black and white tapes with clips of him being interviewed ina 14

North Beach bar/strip joint, on what he thought of video and the state of the art. Beckman has taught at California College of Arts and Crafts, and has worked with the video documentary group Optic Nerve. One Optic Nerver, Starr Sutherland, was the interviewer in the bar. The interviews poked gentle fun at the com- mercial television ‘Man on the Street” interviews

and managed to let the audience know alittle more about who Kenn Beckman is. Beckman is presently working for the Xerox Corporation in Palo Alto.

Livia Blankman

Livia Blankman performed “Painting III” a video/ performance piece, at Video Free America. The black and white video was made in New York. It was taped by John Merrill and conceived by two dancer/choreogra- phers, Clarice Marshall and Debra Wanner. |

The content of the 20 minute video was inspired by a Balthus painting of anude woman lying on a chaise. While the video played, Livia crossed along the top edge of the wall, then climbed down the wail into and through the projected image.

As the tape ended, the video projector was slowly pulled from the space, leaving Livia to finish the piece with a live dance solo.

Livia Blankman

Skip Blumberg

Skip Blumberg is one of the founders of the Video- freex in Lanesville, New York and has worked with do- cCumentary groups such as TVTV and Image Union. Blumberg recently moved to the Bay Area and has been worki ng at KQED-TV. At his Video Free America showing he presented three tapes, “For a Moment You Fly: The Big Apple Circus”, and “JGLNG”. Following are his comments on those tapes:


Circus is hard work, and choosing to Survive as a small circus in the midst of the megalopolis doesn’t make it easier. But it’s been a worthwhile struggle for the performers, crew and supporters of the Big Apple Circus in New York City and for the several thousand people who have been delighted and excited at the Circus shows. “For a Moment You Fly”, an entertain- ment documentary, telis the story and performance of

the first show of the Big Apple Circus in the summer of ©

1977. The circus put on a second season of perfor- mances in summer 1978, in a parking lot next to Madi- son Square Garden. Today the Big Apple Circus is operating the New York School for Circus Arts and planning the summer 1979 show for New York City in an effort to find a permanent home in the city’s cultural landscape.

The videotape, “The First International Whistling Show” begins in San Francisco in Union Square and at the Press Conference and proceeds rapidly to the con- test itself, which took place in Carson City, Nevada during three days in the Fall of 1977. (The second con- test was planned for this year to be held in Pittsburgh. It was cancelled when the California computer com- pany that sponsored the contest changed hands and the new owners decided not to be so wacky.) The con- test gave prizes for classical, country and western, hymn, group, novelty, and enough categories so that everybody took home a prize. The winner of the Grand Prize (a Steuben Glass bowl presented by the New Yorker Magazine) was Harvey Pollack, a classical whistler and barrister from Winnepeg, Canada. He was also appointed president of the spontaneously ini- tiated, ad hoc international whistling organization.

The tape, “JGLNG” showcases the third generation circus performer, Mario Groguett. Mario, his mother, father and brother juggle in the family act. His sister was part of the act until she married a flyer and joined the flyer’s family act. This videotape (pronounced juggling) is the result of work that | did from 1974-1976, while living in Lanesville, New York. In summers | oc- casionally travelled with different circuses and circus


acts recording and piaying back performances and rehearsals for the benefit of the circus artists. “UGLNG” was recorded in the Drougett’s backyard in Sarasota, Florida during an afternoon in January 1976 and was completed in September 1976.

Skip Blumberg

Liza Bear

Liza Bear works at the Center for New Art Activities in New York. She has become well known for her infor- mative interviews with artists in “Avalanche” maga- zine. Besides, the print medium, Bear is interested in communication via video signals transmitted over satellite. She has been involved in lobbying for public access for satellite time. She came to Video Free America after attending the LAICA Alternative Arts Space conference in Los Angeles. In San Francisco at her Video Free America showing, she presented docu- mentation of her Send/Receive satellite project and talked about the trials and tribulations of working on such a large scale satellite project as Send/Receive.

Stephen Beck

Stephen Beck is a video artist and inventor of the di- rect video synthesizer. Beck, whose work has been widely shown on public television as well as in museums and galleries, showed several medium length tapes and talked at Video Free America about the process of developing his synthesizer.

Beck’s work is pure video, In so far as its sensibility is derived from the inherent qualities of television, rather than those of film, painting, performance, etc. His “Video Weavings” are an extension of traditional

weavings, utilizing the capabilities of his synthesizer

to generate a large variety of geometric configurations

and over 4,000 colors. The patterns are woven on the

screen and set to music. They tend to resemble Indian 14 |

or Middle Eastern rugs but this resemblance, which Beck emphasized by reading a quotation about weaving, is more of a convenience than anything else.

Of more importance about Beck’s video is that he has found a way to link his consciousness to an image- maker without history, at least not in the glaringly deri- vative manner found in most of the work one sees. The basic power of his tapes, especially “Cycles” (made in collaboration with Jordan Belson and utilizing some film work to circumvent the outrageously expensive video editing process) comes from a sense of unity between the artist’s consciousness and the vision before us as an audience perhaps, in fact, this linking is the very essential element which, at this time in history, gives video an edge of immediacy over other media whose roots are too deeply interwoven among the threads of past cultures.

The visual effects of the tapes include explosions of colors, anthropomorphic forms, the raw beauty of primal images growing, as if without the control of the will, from the artist’s mind. The command that Beck has of the imagery on the screen, mixed with the inher- ently automatic quality of some of the electronic effects, creates a greater feeling of richness and spon- taneity than | have seen in any art in along time.

Another piece that Beck showed was titled “Anima” a tape of a woman dancing. He explained that the woman on the tape was in fact a kind of anima figure in his life. Upon hearing that, | thought the title might be a little gratuitous especially since most tapes or films of dance always seemed to me more profound in the minds of those who made them than in the reaction of the audience.

But it was immediately clear that Beck had achieved something beyond the scope of most examples of the genre a sensuous drifting image appeared, sometimes visible only through the sparkling highlights of her gown and limbs, the deep reddish colors powerfully suggestive of the feminine spirit delicately guiding, balancing, appearing and disappearing. The “Anima” tape was particularly note-


worthy for its lovely, controlled use of the medium —-and rarely have | seen an electronic medium produce such a graceful and quietly humane effect. | In its larger context, Beck’s work, if it is about any- © thing, has to do with the alchemy of teciinology, the process whereby the base metal of circuitry and com- ponents is tranformed magically into the gold of images hitherto unavailable to the eye and disclosing things about the mind and our relation io the universe that could not otherwise be revealed. Working before a monitor, watching the creation of a whole world which takes on its own life, develops its own elements spon- taneously via infinitely possible configurations, is a process akin to the highest level of mysticism, the bringing of pure nonbeing into being, into at ieast the levei of transforming perception. More than any other medium, where sheer materiality anc historical weight are obstacies to extending one’s vision beyond time and space, synthesized video has the elements of a spiritual form in so far as it combines an imagemaking tool with an inconograpny which has not yet been developed or codified, which still allows the soul to reveal itself. This is not to say that someday video will avoid being as cliche ridden as older media in fact the potential cliches of electronic media art already exist.

Bob Keil’

Doris Chase

Doris Chase’s background is in the visual arts, rather than dance, and this shows in her dance videotapes. In all of the tapes Chase screened at Video Free America, she explained that the choreography was entirely left up to the dancer, improvised or as the result of trial and error experimentation once the taping nad already be- gun. Consequenily, the dance interest of Chase’s tapes varies sianificantly depending on who the performer is.


Chase seems tacitly to acknowledge this by increasing the optical transformations when she is dealing witha dramatically cool performer, like Jonathan Hollander, and limiting them when a theatrically powerful pres- ence like Kei Takei is the subject.

Parts of Chase’s ‘Dance with Me” tape of Takei are such straightforward records of her movement that tney almost look documentary, but artistically so. In this respect, Chase’s tape fulfills one of the unique functions of video by showing us closeups of parts of the performer in details that we never see in live perfor- mance. And unlike film, there is real time immediacy to these close ups of Takei’s dancing eyes, feet, torso and hands. They seem to have come of a piece froma sin- gle performance, rather than having the look of perfec- tion assembled from several different takes.

In this first section of the “Dance with Me” tapes, Chase’s pieces made with the dancer Jonathan Hol- lander, where each movement leaves either a brilliant red or yellow trace, as if his actions were keyed ther- mographically.

Despite my preference for the Takei tapes, Chase’s pieces made with Hollander are probably more typical of her work with video, and perhaps video-dance in general. In “Jonathan and the Rocker” a royal blue, two dimensional Hollander described simple turning and swinging actions while a white ellipse in the back-~ ground vibrates with EKG like oscillations. The drama, and subsequent interest in the tape is more the result of the confluence of Hollander’s movements, William Bolcomb’s accompanying music and the optical trans- formations, than any one of these elements indivi-. dually. The two dimensionality of Hollander’s video image is underlined through Chase’s use of chromatic manipulation. i

As Richard Lorber has pointed out, its the nature of the medium that bodies in videospace lack weight and substance, but Chase’s use of a beautiful yet optically jarring palette of hot pink figures on an electric orange background and rich blue and fiery yellow, make the figures even visually flatter and the pictorial depth of

17 |

the Advent video projector, even shallower. This re- sults in a beautiful but anaesthetized design image, ; somewhat like a Matisse cutout, or a “moving picture , as Chase refers to her work.

Undoubtedly, part of the static nature of Chase's dancers is aresult of her being forced to tape them in the limited space of a video studio, where presumably neither they, nor she, can move very much. Yet, one can’t heip but feel that today the marriage of advanced video technology and dance should produce a more lasting and vital image. Especially when dealing with what many consider a hypnotically passive medium like television, the art has to be all the more powerful to silence the detractors.

It would be marvelous to see Chase’s video tech- niques applied to a dancer of consummate technical abilities like Mikhail Baryshnikov, but, then, that might just upset the balance of video-dance even more, with- out stretching its potentials, resulting in a product that is more dance than video.

Janice Ross<

Eleanor Dickinson

“A chemist told me that there’s enough strychnine in this jar to kill 20 people,” Eleanor Dickinson announced with delight. She had videotaped imbibing of most of the jar’s contents by a group feverish with religion and with effect benign as soda pop.

Dickinson is known in this region more for her pow- erful contour drawings of women, and for her teaching of art and curatorship at the California College of Arts and Crafts. The list of exhibitions, awards, and publi- cations is long. Alfred Frankenstein of the San Fran- cisco Chronicle considers her “one of the country’s most powerful figure draughtswomen’”’. Quite apart from this theme, so apropos of the Bay Area, she has devoted her last 11 summers to researching an aspect


of her family roots in Tennessee near the Kentucky border.

Annually she has packed her car with enough sup- plies and equipment to draw, paint, audio and video record and photograph the spirit of revivalism. Return- ing in her car have been all the trimmings for a serpen- tine celebration snakeskins, blowtorches (an orange soda can with rag wick), fans printed with religious scenes on one side and mortuary ads on the other, tambourines and huge tent revival signs.

“Revivalism began in the 1880's”, she explained.

“It was like Woodstock; people would come from hun- dreds of miles”. Today's remnants are tucked away into places like Holder's Grove, Tennessee, Jolo and Camp Creek, West Virginia. She added video some three years ago, mostly 2” black and white but with some color. Use of anuvocon tube had aided her in low light environments. Rattlers and copperheads are ca- ressed like sacred charms, devils are cast out, a Wo- man is comforted at the mourners bench. An elderly woman confirms in an interview, “My blessing’s always been with serpents and my Daddy’s”.

Dikinson is a welcome friend, who can trade bible verses as easily as arural Sunday school teacher, which indeed she was, but she is not free to invite others, particularly a production crew.

The body of research now includes 320 audio tapes, 152 videotapes, 250 drawings, 3,990 negatives, 1,951 artifacts and she is currently creating a series of black velvet portraits of her friends, inspired by the Mexican black velvet “Last Suppers” to be found in every reviva- list’s home.

Already she has produced two exhibitions at the Concoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. and has pub- lished “REVIVAL!” a book of interviews and drawings and “That Old Time Religion” both by Harper and Row. The Smithsonian is now touring an exhibition of the photographs around the country. After Dickinson’s show at Video Free America, her next major exhibition. will be at the Oakland Museum in summer 1979.

Paul Kleyman? 19

Loni Ding

Kick ball and jump rope had competition during the lunch break at Sherman Elementary School. A televi- sion crew, almost immobilized by fascinated admirers, taped the energy exploding over the schoolyard of the kindergarten through fifth grade classes.

The crew of ‘Bean Sprouts” was shooting another of its series of Chinese American children and friends.

“| told everybody they would be here and that they might be looking for new talent’, said one career minded nine year old. Multi-cultural television that aims for the youngsters and frequently captures the entire family audience now has two major projects ori- ginating in the Bay Area.

“Villa Allegre” (Happy Village) produced by BCTV of Oakland is in its fifth year on the air as a national show with an impact on an estimated 8 million homes. Its cast features children of all social backgrounds who use Spanish and English interchangeably.

It was joined last Sunday by “Bean Sprouts” a tele- vision series created by the Children’s Television Pro- ject of San Francisco. The local showing was on KRON with national PBS airing scheduled next year, when the six part series is completed.

“Bean Sprouts” crews will be shooting in Chinatown and throughout the city to tell the story of Weimin, an immigrant boy who makes new friends, learns to deal with school problems and helps his family adjust to a new way Of life.

“We use Cantonese dialog where it is natural”, said producer-director Loni Ding. “But we focus on the ad- ventures of children of many races, immigrant and American born, inner city and suburban. Ding, who has a fellowship from the Corporation for Public Broad- casting is on leave from KQED where she has been a producer and director since 1973 with the multicultural “Open Studio”. | |

Children’s Television Project is operating out of a self refurbished warehouse owned by the Redevelop- ment Agency at 641 Golden Gate Ave. Two organiza-


tions, the Association of Chinese Teachers and Chi- nese for Affirmative Action, worked on the original idea and funding for the series. The Department for Health, Education and Welfare provided $300,000 initial funding. 7

The crew is primarily Asian-American and includes Myron Chan, Michael Chin, Sara Chin and Dean Wong. Parents, teachers, and community workers have pro- vided ideas for scripts, talent and locations.

“We intend ‘Bean Sprouts’ for family viewing”, said Ding, “and we are making it a mixture of reality and fiction, using music, animation and fantasy. Race relations and ethnic appreciation are blended into the activity. The show emphasizes building on a back- ground, not hiding it, and enhancing friendship among children of all backgrounds.”

Children’s Television Project has finished the first in the series, enthusiastically received in its San Fran- cisco airing as well as in private screenings across the country. The crew is editing the second and planning the other four.

Mildred Hamilton*

Juan Downey

Juan Downey was born in Santiago, Chile and has Studied architecture at the Catholic University of Chile and printmaking at Atelier 17 in Paris. He is currently Assistant Professor of Architecture at Pratt Institute, New York. In 1972 Downey began “Video Trans Ameri- ca” an on going project shot in Mexico, Central and South America. He has continued this interest with his latest work, “Yanomami, Body Rhythms” which was shot on the Orinoco River in Venezuela. His works have been shown at anthropological conferences and at video art showings. Following are some of Downey's feelings about interactions with the Yanomami people:

“Among the Yanomami, cinema, photography and video are called ‘noreshi towail’, aterm which means, literally, the taking of a person’s double. For this rea-


son, the Yanomami are somewhat afraid of the white people’s cameras. The noreshi is the shadow or double of a person, and is an integral part of his spirit. Not even the Yanomami themselves know for sure the rea- son for the term ‘noreshi towai’, whereby they attribute such power to the cameras. Nevertheless, they take delight in watching good documentation of their own culture and in listening to records of their shamans.

On more than one occasion | have discussed with them the absurd relation between the noreshi and photogra- phy. The only reason that appears to rernain for their resistance to the camera is that of not wanting ina possible future, to sadden their descendants by con- fronting them with the image of a dead person. So, the camera represents a danger only beyond death, and even so, at the most of causing sorrow to their rela- tives. But the photographed image, filmed or printed offends against no Yanomami tabu except that relating to death.

The Yanomami took great interest in all sorts of re- cordings of images or sound. Untiringly (far beyond the extent of my interest or patience) they watched and listened to the films and tapes that | had of them. Those who learned to handle the video equipment or the camera took pride and