The Raindance Corporation (since 1971 Raindance Foundation) was founded as an alternative media think tank in 1969 in New York City. The founding members around the first president Frank Gillette created a structure for the development of theories and new video formats, which was in critical opposition to the major television stations. Thanks to the Sony Portapak – the first portable, battery-operated video recorder for private use – which had been launched two years earlier, it became possible for the first time to undermine the monopoly position of US broadcasters. Sounding out the actual feasibility was the goal of Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Louis Jaffe and Marco Vassi. Supported by the protest movements of the 1960s and inspired by the theories of Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, and Gregory Bateson, Raindance explored both political and artistic aspects.
The intention to develop new information structures outside of commercial interests attracted more and more members. With Phyllis Gershuny, Beryl Korot, and Ira Schneider, Raindance gained members whose contributions would give the Raindance Foundation international visibility. The publication »The Video Newsletter«, developed by Gershuny and Korot, laid the foundation for the magazine »Radical Software«, which appeared between 1971 and 1974 and connected video activists worldwide. The magazine played an important part in the birth of the video movement and the emergence of an intellectual current in which video, cybernetics, computer technology, social activism, counterculture, and art merged. All issues are part of the archive of the Raindance Foundation at ZKM.
With »Guerilla Television« (1971) and »Video Art: An Anthology« (1976), further publications of major importance for the history of television and video art emerged from the Foundation. Michael Shamberg’s »Guerillia Television« presented the alternative media philosophy of the Raindance Foundation in both theoretical considerations and practical instructions. As editors of »Video Art«, Beryl Korot and Ira Schneider created an overview of the video scene of their time.
The archive includes videos by the members of the Foundation – for example Frank Gillette, Beryl Korot, Paul Ryan, and Michael Shamberg – as well as the first generation of American video artists such as Maxi Cohen and Joel Gold. The works of Ira Schneider form a focal point of the video archive. Among other things, material on his works »Yucatan Previews« (1973), »Manhattan is an Island« (1974) and »Who Killed Heinrich Hertz?« (1987). Historical recordings form a further focus of the collection: speeches by US President Richard Nixon, a documentary of the first »Earth Day« in 1970, and of the famous New York blackout in July 1977, as well as news footage from CBS and NBC, and popular television series such as »The Phil Silvers Show«. The Raindance Foundation also archived documentaries of university events, such as the Alternative Media Conference at Goddard College in 1970 or a lecture by Gregory Bateson at New York City University in 1974. In addition, the collection contains the archive of »Night Light TV«, a video art program that Ira Schneider compiled from 1980 to 1992 for the cable channels Manhattan CATV and Group W.
In 2009, the artists handed over the Raindance Foundation’s complete video archive, comprising over 500 media, to the ZKM. Previously, the tapes were housed at the New Yorker Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The half-inch reels and U-Matic cassettes, including rare and difficult to handle half-inch loop cassettes, were restored and digitized by the ZKM | Laboratory for Antique Video Systems. The archive is accessible for research purposes. The video archives of Frank Gillette, Ira Schneider, and Paul Ryan, who are also located at ZKM, can be consulted in addition.
In 2017, ZKM dedicated a retrospective to the Raindance Foundation under the title »Radical Software. The Raindance Foundation, Media Ecology and Video Art«, which was also shown at the West in The Hague in 2018, and a symposium (»Raindance. Research and Development in Video Art and Media Ecology«).