Raindance |Ant Farm| T.R Uthco | TVTV

Mar 27 - May 8, 2010


We are delighted to be presenting in cooperation with »basis« the exhibition “videotape is not television” from Mar 27–May 8, 2010. This group exhibition brings together works by some of the most important US American video collectives of the 1970s.

In their different ways the collectives Raindance, Ant Farm, T.R Uthco, TVT illustrate the utopian potential liberated in the early 1970s as the new medium of video art was establishing itself. Operating between agitation and artistic aspiration, the US American video collectives invoked for the first time situationist strategies that had been familiar in France since the 1950s. Within the context of the innovative medium of video, these groups transformed the consumption- and sociocritical trends in US American art production. This opened up new perspectives in the critical exploration of the everyday world in the country’s still young art history, directly questioning social processes that had hitherto played only a marginal role.

The critical aspects of Raindance, Ant Farm, T.R Uthco, TVT reflect these collectives’ interest in the medium’s innovative potential within the visual arts. These groups responded to social and political questions, making them the themes of a new, more diversified concept of art. Reacting to entrenched social patterns in US American everyday life, they mobilized a wide range of documentary and reportage strategies. Other approaches to the same complex of themes were expressive/humorous or performative in nature, primarily opposing the consumerist attitudes prevalent in broad sections of the US American population.

All of these approaches critique the dominance and, in terms of subject matter, one-sidedness of television as a mass medium. The new medium and tool of video opened up opportunities for young artists to experiment with alternative forms in the media propagation of political and social contents. For present-day observers, the utopian potential that young, creative, politically oriented groups detected in video as a medium in the early 1970s brings to mind ideas and conceptions that have since been transferred in a range of fields to the WWW. Comparable expectations underlie the participatory, grass-roots potential of the two media even though historically they lie some thirty years apart. The exhibition illustrates in a variety of ways the extent to which such—possibly inflated—expectations arose in relation to the social potential of video in the early 1970s in commerce, in mass media uses, and in respect of its innovative, participative, and collective uses. Whether and how such justified if also inflated expectations and possibilities apply to the WWW today remains to be seen and constitutes a final question in the project.


Raindance (1970-1974)
From 1970 the group Raindance with its members Ira Schneider and Frank Gilette, Paul Ryan, Beryl Korot, Michael Shamberg, Megan Williams, and Louis Jaffé pursued the goal of uniting the theories of cybernetic thinkers such as McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller with the world of video. Apart from producing videos Raindance were also known for their magazine Radical Software, eleven issues of which were published from 1970–74.

Ant Farm (1968-1978)
The multidisciplinary collective Ant Farm hailed from the West Coast of North America and consisted of Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and the activists Curtis Schreier, Douglas Hurr, and Hudson Marquez. The members founded the group in San Francisco in 1968 and worked in their studio on Pier 40 until it was destroyed by fire in 1974. Their site-related installations questioning postwar American values were characterized on the one hand by high, critical, almost deconstructionist aspirations, but on the other by their “pop humor.” Their spectacular and often richly symbolic performances often formed the subject of their video works. Ant Farm, too, was influenced by the work of alternative architects, and celebrated a nomadic, commune-like lifestyle in their self-designed houses or the Ant Farm Van.

Videofreex (1969-1978)
In summer 1969 David Cort, Parry Teasdale, and Mary Curtis Ratcliff founded the group Videofreex after Cort and Teasdale met at the Woodstock Festival. In the following months numerous artists joined the group. In 1970 they began organizing weekly video shows in a New York loft. Their move to the site of Maple Tree Farm near Lanesville (NY) marked the start of one of the first media centers. A number of videos with filmed performances were produced here, but it was also here that the first ever pirate broadcasting station calling itself Lanesville TV was set up.

TVTV (1972-1979)
The group TVTV consisted in part of members of the groups previously mentioned, evidence for the lively interchange taking place among the artists. Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, Allen Rucker, Hudson Marquez, Michael Shamberg, and Megan Williams were members of TVTV. They dreamt of a journalism more subversive than had been possible within the framework of Raindance.

The videos exhibited vary greatly in length and character. However, different as their approaches are, whether humorous, experimental, or straightforward narrative, inherent to all of them is their critique of the mass media. Each of the actors involved was a pioneer in the developing art of video since this generation grew up without the Internet, digital cameras, or the range of TV channels available today.

“And let me say this: These artists are pioneers. They are pioneers as surely as were Lewis and Clark when they explored uncharted territory; as surely as were Armstrong and Aldrin when they set foot on the moon.”
(Doug Hall in his speech as John F. Kennedy on Media Burn)