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We’re All Videofreex: Changing Media and Social Change

  • Location:
    SVA Theatre, 333 West 23 Street, New York, New York, 10030, US

School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents We're All Videofreex: Changing Social Media from Portapak to Smartphone, a symposium on the genealogy of social media and citizen journalism as seen through the lens of the pioneering collective, the Videofreex.

The program features panels, screenings and a Q&A with Videofreex members. Organizer David A. Ross, chair, MFA Art Practice Department, and Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media, moderate discussions with members of the collective, media historians and current video artists.

"We’re All Videofreex" takes place on Friday, April 5, 2013 from 4-9pm at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23 Street in Manhattan. It is free and open to the public.

Event highlights:
• Reunion of the original Videofreex, including Skip Blumberg, Parry Teasdale, Nancy Cain and Davidson Gigliotti;
• Other panelists including Don West, the former CBS exec who produced the radical (and rejected) TV pilot "Subject to Change," and Ray Mungo, founder of Liberation News Service (LNS);
• First public screening of West's "Subject to Change";
• First public screening of Blumberg's "Videofreex Pirate TV Show 1969-78/2013";
• The event will be filmed for an upcoming documentary, "Here Come the Videofreex."

Between 1969 and 1978, the Videofreex produced hundreds of hours of real-time video documents shot with Sony’s Portapak, the then newly invented portable video camera and recorder. The Videofreex were the first non-news organization to report hyper-local news using consumer technology and broadcast in a variety-format show, capturing the pivotal events and figures of 1970s counterculture. The Videofreex archives include interviews with Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton and activist Abbie Hoffman, as well as recordings of street demonstrations, rock music, erotica and performance art.

In 1969, the Videofreex created a pilot for CBS, for a show titled "Subject to Change," which never aired. In 1972, the Videofreex founded the first pirate TV station, Lanesville TV, in upstate New York and invited community members to participate in the creation of content for “the world’s smallest television station.” It has been reported that the Videofreex, Lanesville TV and Subject to Change influenced the 1975 creation of NBC’s "Saturday Night" in 1975, which later became "Saturday Night Live."

In considering the legacy of the Videofreex, "We’re All Videofreex" investigates today’s media landscape; just as the Portapak (which hit the market in 1967) greatly influenced the Videofreex, the ubiquity of video cameras and broadcasting platforms like YouTube are again reshaping the way stories are told and distributed.

Presented by the MFA Art Practice Department with support from the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department, the BFA Fine Arts Department and the Visual & Critical Studies Department.

"We’re All Videofreex" schedule:

4:00 Subject to Change: Challenging Media
Moderated by Ron Simon

With Don West, radical editor Ray Mungo and Videofreex members Nancy Cain and Parry Teasdale
When CBS executive Don West recruited the Videofreex to produce Subject to Change, media and journalism were at a critical turning point. Panelists discuss the rejected pilot and Videofreex’s subsequent founding of Lanesville TV, both evidence and impetus of the challenges posed to traditional media and journalism by a growing counterculture and the invention of portable video.

5:20 Rewriting History
With Videofreex members Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Bart Friedman, Davidson Gigliotti, Parry Teasdale, Carol Vontobel and Ann Woodward
The Videofreex discuss their history and legacy and take questions from the audience.

6:15 Real Time: Video After the Videofreex
Moderated by David A. Ross
With media historian Dierdre Boyle, documentarian Elizabeth Coffman, artist and Rhizome founder Mark Tribe and Videofreex members Skip Blumberg and Davidson Gigliotti

How has portable video shaped the way we see and are seen? Panelists discuss Videofreex’s legacy and renewed resonance in the context of contemporary social media and social change.

7:30 "Videofreex Pirate TV Show 1969-78/2013"
A screening of a compilation of clips from the collective’s videos, edited by member Skip Blumberg.