Hippies, Yippies and Portapaks: Counterculture in Early Video Art

Research seminar on video archives of the ZKM | Karlsruhe

Frank Gillette, Paul Ryan, Ira Schneider, Michael Shamberg

The work on the scientific indexing of the video archive of the Raindance Foundation by a group of students, which began in cooperation with the ZKM in the summer semester 2020 with the seminar on video knowledge, was continued in the winter semester 2020/21 in a new composition and with a different thematic focus. Once again, the task was to sift through a selection of video material, identify what was seen, and research locations, events, and protagonists. The results were incorporated into descriptions and biographical sketches that were entered into the video database of the ZKM.

In the winter semester 2020/21, the focus was on the so-called counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s in the USA, which, with its rebellion against authoritarian structures, advocacy for civil rights, protest against the Vietnam War, striving for alternative ways of life, commitment to environmental protection, or the revolutionization of sexual moral concepts, had an impact on the beginning of artistic work with the medium of video - especially by US video collectives and groups. The seminar participants primarily processed recordings of an event described by one of the participants at the time as an "elite Woodstock": the Alternative Media Conference, which took place from June 17 to 20, 1970 in Plainfield, Vermont. On the campus of Goddard College, makers of underground newspapers, FM radio programs, and the music industry, as well as members of video groups such as Raindance, the Videofreex, and Ant Farm, gathered to participate in workshops and discussions, listen to lectures such as that of spiritual teacher Baba Ram Dass, get to know each other, and make contacts, some of which would last for many years. In addition, bands and solo musical artists performed and in the evening hours video tapes that had been brought along were shown on an inflatable screen set up by the Videofreex in the form of an oversized television screen.