Artistic Media Research in Early Video Art

Meeting Radical Software

The seminar »Video-Wissen. Artistic Media Research in Early Video Art« is a cooperation between the KIT | Institute of Art and Architectural History/Art History and the ZKM | Karlsruhe.

Seminar Instructor: Dr. Barbara Filser (KIT | Institute of Art and Architectural History/Art History)

At the beginning of the 1970s, demands were made by video makers for a new way of producing and imparting knowledge that would be appropriate to the media age that had just dawned. This demand was explicitly formulated, for example, in the manual »Guerrilla Television«, which was published in 1971 by one of the US video collectives of those years, the Raindance Corporation. Video was to be the means and medium of this knowledge revolution.  However, the possibilities of the suddenly available video technology had yet to be explored, not least in the artistic-practical work with the medium itself. Work was therefore also done on the production of a video knowledge - a knowledge of video that is revealed in videos.

It was the task of the seminar participants to find examples of such video knowledge and its production. As a source they had access to the holdings of the Raindance Corporation (video archive of the Raindance Foundation) and its members (Paul Ryan, Ira Schneider). A selection of tapes and recordings from the years 1970 and 1971 was selected from this stock in the seminar. The task was to describe the videos in terms of content and to supplement the entries in the archive database. Based on the inscriptions on the tapes and their boxes, extensive research was undertaken to identify the recorded events, dates, locations and protagonists. In some cases, the status of the audiovisual recordings was also assessed, i.e. whether they were raw material or an edited tape.

The research included the journal »Radical Software«, published by the Raindance Corporation, published interviews with video makers of the first hour, contemporary reports in newspapers and magazines, photographs, films and other videos of those years, as well as online available holdings of other archives or contributions that provided information on events such as the first »Earth Day« and the »Kent State Massacre« (both 1970).

The results of this research have been incorporated into viewing protocols and short descriptive or biographical texts, which have been entered into the ZKM video database.

The seminar »Video-Wissen. Artistic Research in Early Media Art« was conducted within the framework of KIT-LehreForschung, a program of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to promote research-oriented teaching. The course allowed for practical work in the field of art and media history research with usable results, which also provided the participants with insights into the field of archives and collections. The work on the aforementioned holdings together with students will be continued in the winter semester 2020/21 under the title »Hippies, Yippies and Portapaks: Counterculture in Early Video Art«. The thematic focus will then be on the so-called »counterculture« of the 1960s and 1970s as the contemporary historical background of early video art in the USA.

Project team

Andreas Brehmer, Hartmut Jörg, Felix Mittelberger