The Channeled Image: Art and Media Politics after Television 9780226821924

A fascinating look at artistic experiments with televisual forms. Following the integration of television into the fabri

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The Channeled Image: Art and Media Politics after Television

Table of contents :
Introduction: Tuning In
1 Network Media/TV Nation
2 Movement Media/War on Television
3 We Interrupt This Program . . .
4 Public Television/Nervous System
Conclusion: TV Now?

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The Channeled Image



Art and Media Politics after Television


The University of Chicago Press Chicago & London

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago  The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London ©  by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact the University of Chicago Press,  E. th St., Chicago, IL . Published  Printed in the United States of America          

    

ISBN-: ---- (cloth) ISBN-: ---- (paper) ISBN-: ---- (e-book) DOI:./chicago/.. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Levin, Erica, author. Title: The channeled image : art and media politics after television / Erica Levin. Description: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, . | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN  | ISBN  (cloth) | ISBN  (paperback) | ISBN  (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Television and art. | Television and politics. Classification: LCC N.T L  | DDC .—dc/eng/ LC record available at This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z.- (Permanence of Paper).

for my grandmothers


Introduction: Tuning In  1

Network Media/TV Nation


Movement Media/War on Television


We Interrupt This Program . . .


Public Television/Nervous System  Conclusion: TV Now?  Acknowledgments Notes  Index 






Tuning In

In  the artist Aldo Tambellini appeared on television in a short interview recorded at the Black Gate Theater, a venue dedicated to “electromedia,” a mode of performance involving projectors, televisions, transformers, and lights.¹ As the segment begins, Tambellini leans over a bulky reel-to-reel videotape machine sitting on a table next to a stack of television receivers. His Black Video  () appears on one of the monitors, white light pulsing across a dark screen.² During the interview, Tambellini describes television as “an image made out of light which travels in time and space.” His work, he explains, reveals this light as “a constantly moving and ever-changing form.” He calls for creative people to “get involved with this idea of energy, rather than the idea of making pictures for certain people,” concluding, “When artists begin to say, we are making forms for everybody, we are exploring possibilities for everybody, then we will come to some creative aspect which will not belong to one particular class or another particular class but will be new exploration which is for everybody.”³ Tambellini’s account of the televisual image points toward a technical description of analog broadcasting. In the simplest terms, television cameras transform light and sound into pulses of electricity that are transmitted by way of electromagnetic “carrier” waves at a specific frequency, enabling any television receiver within range to pick up and convert the signal back into sounds and images. Elsewhere, however, Tambellini suggests

that the technology of broadcasting only partially accounts for television’s potency and potential as a medium: “I never had television at home, because I thought it was disturbing, too powerful. But I used to analyze television, in a bar, or outside.”⁴ In his view, television presaged a future in which art would be entirely subsumed by media. The editing process of our culture takes place continuously every night in front of the TV screen—bits of information we call news . . . images and words we call information. In the regeneration of old icons, the making of new ones—in a digested format, the world is defined. We connect for a moment over the air in isolated spheres we call homes. Years from now we will remember that art was swallowed by media—that media was the language of communication—that interactive media brings the process to a live response.⁵

How would artists navigate this radical transformation of art? What would “making forms for everybody” look like under these conditions? How might this process dismantle, rather than consolidate, existing social divisions and exclusions? In  Tambellini purchased the video camera and the reel-to-reel recorder that he used to make Black Video  and began regularly recording broadcast material. After watching television critically for years, he was finally able, in his words, “to take control” of images previously unavailable to him as an artist.⁶ This book asks how artists in the s engaged with television as a site of image production in order to participate in larger struggles set within and against the televisual public sphere.⁷ Already a popular source of entertainment, television garnered prestige and sharp criticism for its coverage of the political violence that defined the period—assassinations, war, police brutality, as well as the uprisings and protests sparked by these events. The Channeled Image considers how artists manipulated and imaginatively transformed broadcast images in the wake of political turmoil that tested television’s capacity to mediate a nation in crisis. It focuses on artists’ efforts to critically exploit the tensions that structured the alliance between television networks and the state. The interesting and significant experimentation that resulted invites us to revisit events that threw television broadcasters’ claims to authority into relief and set the stage for struggles over how access to the airwaves would be negotiated going forward. The electromedia environments, film installations, and live “kinetic theater” performances discussed in the pages that follow sit uneasily within what David James calls the “single, transhistoric, self-regulating 2


avant-garde tradition.” In Allegories of Cinema, his seminal study of American film in the s, James rejects the orthodoxy of this tradition, situating avant-garde and underground films within a “spectrum of alternative practices which develop and decay with historically specific needs and possibilities.”⁸ Expanding upon this approach, The Channeled Image analyzes experiments by artists strongly identified with avant-garde filmmaking alongside work by radical filmmakers, video collectives, and members of the media underground who were similarly concerned with questions of televisual authority and access. The establishment of public television in  provided an occasion for members of these groups working at the margins of television to participate in the creation of new experimental programming. Describing the film industry in ways that pertain to the televisual engagements at issue here, James observes, “Far from being categorically defined against a monolithic, uncontradictory industry, these alternatives emerge from (and in certain circumstances merge with) a similar plurality of practices constructed in the margins of industry or even as mutations within it.”⁹ Shared concerns and conditions placed artists in close proximity with other media producers as television came to play an increasingly important role in American political life. This book asks where their interests and practices intersected, while also clarifying the distinct political stakes of works that share a vocabulary of forms borrowed from the broadcast image. What Is a Channeled Image? The term “moving image” refers to the motion that animates an image. In the case of analog cinema, discrete frames are recorded on a strip of film, which passes through a projector. As it advances, a shutter obstructs the light being shone through the filmstrip while the strip moves forward and is briefly held in the gate. The coordination between the motion that advances the film and the intermittent shutter gives rise to the illusion of continuous motion on the screen. I use the term “channeled image” to describe a different kind of movement, akin to Tambellini’s account of the transmission of light as energy over the airwaves. The channeled image names a constellation of practices concerned with the way images are mobilized and tuned-in as signals, practices that developed during a fertile period of experimentation and dissent in the s. Attention to the way images are channeled through broadcast networks yielded a variety of experimental formats and modes of exhibition, including immersive multiscreen environments, gallery-based film and Tuning In


video installations, live performances incorporating multiple and mobile projections, and artists’ videos and happenings produced for television. Channeled images in these works often mimic or simulate the appearance of televised images without actually accessing the airwaves, for example by capturing visual noise produced by filming the television screen, combining broadcast audio with appropriated film footage, or using exhibition formats such as split-screen projection or multichannel display that reference the simultaneous presence of multiple broadcast frequencies.¹⁰ While a number of the examples I address were produced without access to a television studio, in a few important instances artists and filmmakers, including Tambellini, were able to briefly take hold of the means of televisual production and reimagine the medium from within. These opportunities provided new possibilities for staging disruption through videographic layering and distortion or program formats developed for simultaneous multichannel broadcasts on different frequencies. Although video technology plays a role in the development of these practices, television’s mediation of politically significant events, both planned and unplanned, provides an important and rarely examined impetus for much of this experimentation. As such, visual signs of channeling in these works function as critical engagements with television’s production of authority and social meaning, rather than as recursive operations interrogating the distinctive features of video as a medium or television’s technical and material substrate.¹¹ The experimental works I discuss often restage scenes of political crisis, moments in which the authority maintained by television is unsettled or revealed as open to contestation. The artistic and political media practices that are the focus of this book developed during what William Uricchio identifies as the era of “dial television.” Between  and , he writes, television was defined as a medium by its association with transmission and broadcasting. During this period, viewers accessed programming by way of a dial interface; television was oriented toward national audiences; and the airwaves were administered by state-run agencies, in the case of the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Content, broadcast in “real time,” was “programmer-dominated.” A limited number of broadcasters operated on a scarcity model of production designed to ensure the consolidation of mass audiences.¹² These characteristics are not, Uricchio argues, essential aspects of television as a medium but, rather, historically contingent qualities or conditions. According to his schema, the dial period gives way around  to a “remote control period,” during which new devices allow for “viewer-controlled” programming. Broadcasting is replaced by 4


narrowcasting. Television is defined by its association with technologies and platforms (cable, satellite, VCR) that deliver increased amounts of content and enable greater time-shifting. These technologies also allow television to address transnational audiences. The shift from “TiVo to YouTube” defines a third, ongoing period, beginning in , which Uricchio identifies with slivercasting, user-produced global media, on-demand streaming, unlimited content, metadata and algorithmic filters, and niche audiences.¹³ While the conclusion will briefly consider how artists have engaged the twenty-first-century televisual conditions Uricchio describes, this book focuses primarily on works produced during the “dial period,” between the late s and . In the decades following World War II, television established itself as a legitimate source of news but also drew criticism for its coverage of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement. At the same time, ongoing racial discrimination fueled uprisings across the nation. The formal establishment of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in  came at a time when the question of how television should participate in mediating political turmoil in the United States was urgently felt. For a brief period, public broadcasters developed new experimental program initiatives intended to promote greater democratic representation and access to the airwaves, but these efforts also prompted further conflict over how to manage dissent and mediate participation among members of diverse audiences. Many of the questions about television’s role in American society that preoccupied public broadcasters in the late s were also taken up by postwar social theorists and critics. In an essay entitled “How to Look at Television,” published in , Theodor Adorno investigates the ideological presuppositions that inform the “total pattern” of “the socio-psychological stimuli typical of televised material.” Adorno is concerned with the way television encourages viewers to identify with the status quo, a process he describes as the tendency “to channelize audience reaction.”¹⁴ Here, the term “channelize” describes recurring cultural patterns that forge corresponding patterns of response, constraining and directing audience reactions that might otherwise upend these mutually reinforcing relationships. Adorno’s idiosyncratic use of the term recalls Steven Connor’s observation that before “channel” was used to describe banded portions of the airwaves, it more commonly referred to water features in the landscape. A trickle of water, Connor observes, can over time deepen into a groove and eventually into a watercourse, canal, or channel.¹⁵ Adorno argues that patterns “dimly perceptible” in early novels have become “congealed and stanTuning In


dardized” in popular television dramas. He models a mode of psychosocial analysis that highlights the relationship and interaction between what he calls the “overt and hidden message,” focusing primarily on elements of character and plot in fictional dramas. Adorno addresses these concerns to the general “nature of present-day television and its imagery” rather than to any particular show or program. Television, in his view, is part of the larger complex of “the culture industry,” which is characterized by “rigid institutionalization” that threatens to transform modern mass culture into “a medium of undreamed-of psychological control.”¹⁶ Like Adorno, Raymond Williams sought to identify patterns or structures characteristic of the “normal experience of broadcasting.”¹⁷ His seminal study Television: Technology and Cultural Form, published in , shifts focus away from the discrete narrative elements analyzed by Adorno, toward “the central television experience,” understood as “a planned flow.”¹⁸ The concept of flow links a technological account of broadcasting as a continuous signal to both institutional practices of programming and television’s organization as a cultural text. Despite the arrival of “a new generation of communications technology” offering a more viewer-centered experience of television, Williams warns of an “unfinished struggle and argument over the institutions and control of sound and image broadcasting.”¹⁹ He criticizes formalist approaches to media analysis that confuse a “technical possibility” such as “the fact of instant transmission” with a “social fact.” Televisual transmissions, he insists, are always selected and controlled by existing social authorities.²⁰ Scholars who embrace “technical abstractions” fail to register the existence of these institutions but also, crucially (and in distinction to Adorno), the possibility of challenging their authority.²¹ Williams argues that effects often attributed to the medium or technology of television itself are better understood as the effects of “a particular social order.”²² Although television produces certain intended effects, corresponding to certain explicit intentions, he notes that it also creates unforeseen effects. Members of “the young radical underground,” he observes approvingly, have already seized upon the importance of these unintended outcomes with “an eager sense of experiment and practice.”²³ During the period bookended by these two important critiques of television’s cultural patterns and forms, artists and filmmakers were engaged in a parallel mode of critical analysis. However, instead of examining the “normal experience of broadcasting,” some of the most noteworthy experiments targeted unusual and unplanned moments of disruption, and in doing so emphasized the technological contingencies exposed by the suspension of regularly scheduled programming. Returning to Tambellini, we can 6


see how these concerns took shape by tracing the development of a piece entitled Black TV (), which he began in  and showed in a variety of different formats and contexts before premiering it as a single-channel split-screen film in . My approach here, and in the chapters that follow, begins by examining the borrowed images that appear in works of art and other political media, identifying their sources and their broader social significance. I analyze the transformations involved in the formal re-presentation of these images and, whenever relevant, the significance of changes that take place over the course of a work’s development. Reconstructing the development of Black TV reveals the artist’s attention to the televisual mediation of an era-defining event—the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy—and his close analysis of the way it violently upended the “planned flow” that Williams identifies as “the central television experience.” In an interview published in , Tambellini told the critic Lil Picard, “I am looking for the many. I am looking for the multitude. I am looking for the simultaneous.” Black TV conjures this multitude as a concatenation of unsettling images, including news footage of Senator Kennedy’s assassination. Tambellini produced the work with the same Sony CV- tabletop, reel-to-reel video recorder that he used to create Black Video  in . That year he began regularly taping the broadcast material that appears in Black TV. To make the  mm film version of Black TV, he played these video recordings back on a monitor and filmed the screen directly with a Bolex film camera (fig. .). This process allowed him to capture videographic distortions produced by way of overexposure, slow motion, and frames thrown out of focus, visual effects that he amplified through rapid cutting and the addition of a discordant soundtrack. Tambellini exhibited Black TV in multiple versions and formats, adding and reediting material as he went. In March  he presented the work as an electromedia environment at the Black Gate Theater. Between  and  he had staged a number of frenetic electromedia performances at venues across New York City. These programs of live poetry, music, and dance often featured the projection of films and painted glass slides, which the artist called Lumagrams.²⁴ Compared to these complexly staged performances, the presentation of Black TV was relatively spare. This early iteration of the work took the form of multiple television monitors stacked on a three-inch wooden platform painted black and lined with black cushions, where people could recline as they took in video images from many screens at once.²⁵ In March  Tambellini premiered the split-screen film version of Black TV at the Oberhausen International Tuning In


. Aldo Tambellini, Black TV,  (film stills),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Aldo Tambellini Archive, Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation, and Harvard Film Archive.

Film Festival, where it played in a conventional theatrical setting and was awarded the Grand Prix. In the interval between Black TV’s debut as an electromedia environment at the Black Gate and its premiere as a split-screen film at Oberhausen, Tambellini also incorporated an early two-screen version of the  mm film into Black Gate Cologne (–), a televised happening he produced with the artist Otto Piene in the studios of WDR-TV (West German Broadcasting Cologne), now recognized as “the first full scale television artwork.”²⁶ Two separate performances of Black Gate Cologne were recorded in late August . An edited mix that combined both performances aired on January , . During the taping of the event, the artists invited members of the audience to interact with translucent inflatable sculptures in an environment dominated by Piene’s globelike light sculpture and Tambellini’s array of multimedia materials, including his hand-painted slides and the projection of Black TV. The broadcast version of Black Gate Cologne layered recordings of both events into a singlechannel video, such that images of people watching or participating in the event often appear superimposed with other audiovisual elements of the performance.²⁷ Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June , . Between the staging of Black TV as a media environment in March and the production of Black Gate Cologne in August of that year, news of the event became a focal point in the work. Reports of the shooting punctuate the distorted broadcast material from Black TV that Tambellini incorporated into Black Gate Cologne, which he projected in a televisual environment throbbing with other flashing lights and flickering monitors. On the soundtrack, Andrew West, a reporter at the chaotic scene of the event, exclaims, “Senator Kennedy has been shot.” In Black Gate Cologne, this audio clip is calmly introduced by Harry Reasoner, the CBS news anchor and host of a special report, The Shooting of Senator Kennedy. West’s distressed reaction, recorded in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, returns in the single-screen version of Black TV that premiered at Oberhausen just a few months later, but without the authoritative commentary by Reasoner that frames the audio in Black Gate Cologne. Instead, Tambellini intensifies the affective impact of West’s live report by pairing it with sounds of people shouting in the aftermath of the event, wailing sirens, and high-pitched waves of static. Tambellini’s use of a split screen in the  mm film version of Black TV that premiered in  emphasizes the simultaneity and disjunction explored in earlier versions of the work. The camera moves constantly in Tuning In


relation to the television monitor it records, throwing a barrage of broadcast images in and out of focus: Walter Cronkite, the CBS News logo, Kennedy alive at the podium, then lifeless on the floor. In Tambellini’s hands, television becomes an instrument for tuning affective intensity rather than conveying information. The shock of Kennedy’s assassination is redoubled by a series of searing images, including blown-out, overexposed shots of combat in Vietnam, malnourished children from the CBS news special Hunger in America, broadcast in May , and staccato glimpses of police violence against protesters in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that August. In place of a memorial tribute dedicated to Kennedy’s accomplishments in office, Black TV emphasizes the traumatic repercussions of a political life suddenly cut short. In April  Kennedy had embarked on a highly publicized tour of the Mississippi Delta intended to bring national attention to the issue of chronic malnutrition in America.²⁸ On the campaign trail, he promised to end the Vietnam War and reprioritize the unfinished War on Poverty that had languished under President Johnson. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April , many Americans saw Kennedy as central to sustaining the civil rights struggle as it entered a new phase dedicated to economic justice.²⁹ Police violence against protesters at the DNC in Chicago signified a hard turn away from this political project after the deaths of King and Kennedy and, for many Americans, a deepening crisis of faith in the political establishment. Liberated from their original contexts, politically resonant images in Black TV are made visible as broadcast signals on the verge of dissolving into pure light or breaking up amid waves of audiovisual noise, as if no longer able to bear the full affective weight of a violently forfeited future. In Black TV, black functions as a deliberately overburdened signifier, allowing Tambellini to link expanded consciousness in a new technological age to Black liberation, anarchy, outer space, and the womb as a site of new beginnings. These associations proliferate not only in Black TV but throughout many other works Tambellini produced in the late s. Black Gate Cologne ends with an audio recording of the Black poet Calvin C. Hernton reading his poem “Jitterbugging in the Streets,” written on the occasion of the  riots in Harlem, but resonant with the uprisings that followed the assassination of King. As Nadja Millner-Larsen observes, Tambellini’s use of electromedia to “explode the referentiality of black through and beyond abstraction” reaches its limit with the incorporation into his electromedia performances of Hernton’s poetry, which she reads as “the grounding force of the work.” She observes that the poet’s “signify10


ing power comes to bear the ‘burden of representation’ invoked by Fanon and, before him, W. E. B. Dubois.”³⁰ However, in the final film version of Black TV, Tambellini eliminates Hernton’s poem, as he does the voice of Harry Reasoner. The distorted and overexposed images alone are made to bear the burden previously borne by the voice and body of the Black poet and mediated by the authority of the white newscaster. Tracing the development of Black TV between  and , from its initial staging as an electromedia environment, to its role as an element in an experimental broadcast, to its premiere as a stand-alone split-screen film, allows us to see how Tambellini’s analysis of television takes shape in practice, and how the work comes to figure television, not only as a means for disseminating images electronically but as a site for the production of affect and institutional authority. The earliest iteration of the work treats the pervasive presence of broadcast signals as an immersive environment. In the later versions, Tambellini selectively includes bits of specific broadcasts to intervene in the memorializing operations employed by television newscasters to mediate the event of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. The process of recording broadcast material on video and refilming it from a monitor with a  mm film camera visually disrupts the smooth transmission of the image as a signal. Tambellini yokes this formal disruption to the rhetorical force of Hernton’s poetry (only to undo the link in the later split-screen version of the work). In doing so, he reworks the process of selection and control enacted, as Williams observes, by “existing social authorities.” In Black TV, televisual effects point to the workings of a particular social order, and to new forms of mediated collectivity, rather than referring back to the medium itself.³¹ In an interview, Tambellini described Black TV to Gene Youngblood as a work “about the future, the contemporary American, the media, the injustice, the witnessing of events, and the expansion of the senses.”³² Youngblood, author of the influential book Expanded Cinema (), reads Tambellini’s work as an exploration of “perception in the intermedia network.” In his words, Black TV generates a pervasive atmosphere of the process-level perception by which most of us experience the contemporary environment. Since it involves the use of multiple monitors and various levels of video distortion, there is a sense of the massive simultaneity inherent in the nature of electronic media communication. Black TV is one of the first aesthetic statements on the subject of the intermedia network as nature, possibly the only such statement in film form. Tuning In


Youngblood collapses the earliest iteration of Black TV, staged as an electromedia environment at the Black Gate Theater, with the later versions that employ film and emphasize the event of Kennedy’s assassination. He misses how “the expansion of the senses,” for Tambellini, is bound up with the experience of mass witnessing via television. Youngblood does not address how the work engages with the particular historical and political significance of the broadcasts it represents. Instead, his technophilic account of expanded cinema treats media as an extension of nature. As a result, his reading of Black TV overlooks the significance of the work’s temporal and political specificity. Like Tambellini, many of the other artists whose work I discuss in The Channeled Image are associated in one way or another with expanded cinema. In  many of these artists participated in the New Cinema Festival I, often referred to as the Festival of Expanded Cinema.³³ Tambellini performed Black Zero, an electromedia event featuring live poetry. Carolee Schneemann (central to chapter ) presented Ghost Rev, a live performance with projected images, as part of a program of work by the media collective USCO. Nam June Paik (a key figure in chapter ) presented a series of works, some produced in collaboration with Stan VanDerBeek (the subject of chapter ), who also presented his own work, including Feedback No.  and Move-Movies: A Choreography for Projectors.³⁴ Although Bruce Conner (featured in chapter ) did not participate in the festival, in  he showed eve-ray-forever, a three-screen  mm looped film-projection based on cosmic ray () at the Rose Art Museum. The festival, and the explosion of experimentation that inspired it, is often credited with popularizing expanded cinema as a practice. Early accounts of expanded cinema focus on the way it disaggregates the analytical components of film or expands cinema to the point where filmic effects can be “produced without the use of film at all.”³⁵ The synthetic approach of Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema sought to align a wide variety of cinematic and extracinematic practices with what he understood as a technologically driven expansion of the senses. In addition to Tambellini, Youngblood’s book includes interviews with Schneemann, Paik, and VanDerBeek. Conner does not appear in Expanded Cinema but is linked to the practice not only through his use of looped projections in the gallery but via his participation in the production of light shows on the West Coast, an important subcultural variant of the practices Youngblood catalogs. While some of the artists I discuss, including Tambellini and VanDerBeek (often credited with coining the phrase “expanded cinema”), were sympathetic to Youngblood’s account of expanded cinema as a medi12


ated extension of consciousness, others, such as Conner and Schneemann, were less inclined to embrace Youngblood’s techno-utopian impulses. Recent scholarship has revisited Youngblood’s account of expanded cinema, offering a number of critical revisions and qualifications to his project.³⁶ Jonathan Walley aligns Youngblood’s text with a first wave of expanded cinema, which he argues was followed by two subsequent waves that departed dramatically from the initial embrace of intermedia and instead continued “the avant-garde film’s tradition of theorizing cinema’s ontology and distinguishing it from other art forms.”³⁷ Whereas Walley traces the conflicts between distinct phases of expanded cinema’s development, I consider tensions internal to practices that emerged during what he identifies as its first wave. Walley aligns this first period of expanded cinema with a broader shift away from the modernist preoccupation with medium specificity, toward what Allan Kaprow describes as “the blurring of art and life,” and the establishment of the artist as a more general identity, no longer bound to the use a particular medium. Tambellini makes a similar observation with regard to his own identity as an artist in an interview from , when he declares, “Artists working in [electromedia] can no longer consider themselves specialists in a single discipline. Although they come from different backgrounds such as film, theatre, dance, painting and sculpture each is interweaving their media.”³⁸ Expanded cinema, as Gloria Sutton observes, engages the “the broader systems of political distribution, social regulation, and mechanization of information.”³⁹ This book asks how experiments associated with expanded cinema intersect with other efforts by artists and filmmakers to address some of the most pressing political issues of the period. I offer my own term, “the channeled image,” not as an updated synonym for expanded cinema but, rather, as an alternative framework for analyzing works that Youngblood’s influential study has made difficult to situate in relation to other non-expanded practices of political media production, including work produced by radical filmmakers and public television producers. Rather than blurring a supposed distinction between art and everyday life, I argue that these works picture the incursion of political events into both realms simultaneously. Medium specificity plays a role here insofar as it relates to the broader preoccupation with events experienced at a mass scale via broadcast transmissions. Said another way, the experimental practices that I position under the sign of the channeled image are less concerned with defining one medium’s affordances and limitations vis-àvis another than with exploring the mediation of certain events via television. In Tambellini’s own words, “Since my interest is in multimedia and Tuning In


mixed-media live events, and in experimental television, I think of film as a material to work with, part of the communications media rather than an end in itself.”⁴⁰ Though Tambellini and his peers may not have been concerned with medium specificity in a narrow sense, their work inherits and transforms the modernist project of designing environments to enhance cognitive and perceptual training. Justus Nieland offers a relevant account of media environments shaped by the imperatives of Cold War liberalism, designs that sought to reconcile geopolitical tensions between “order and growth, security and change” on a new worldly scale.⁴¹ Glimpses of the U.S.A., a multichannel installation designed by Ray and Charles Eames for the American National Exhibition in Sokolniki Park, Moscow, in , serves as a key example of a media environment orchestrated to confront viewers with “Cold War scenarios of choice and decision-making, prediction and speculation.”⁴² Appearing on seven enormous screens suspended within a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller, Glimpses of the U.S.A. presented thousands of still and moving images drawn from film archives and popular magazines, arrayed to promote an idealized image of daily life in the United States (fig. .). Nieland’s argument expands upon Beatriz Colomina’s observation that Glimpses of the U.S.A. is “organized around a strict logic of information transmission”:

. Charles and Ray Eames, Glimpses of the U.S.A., . ©  Eames Office LLC

( 14


The film breaks with the fixed perspectival view of the world. In fact, we find ourselves in a space that can only be apprehended with the high technology of telescopes, zoom lenses, airplanes, night-vision cameras, and so on, and where there is no privileged point of view. It is not simply that many of the individual images that make up Glimpses have been taken with these instruments. More importantly, the relationship between the images re-enacts the operation of the technologies.

Glimpses of the U.S.A. begins with images recorded from outer space before shifting to aerial views of American landscapes that give way to what Colomina describes as “an image of the ‘Good Life’ without ghettos, poverty, domestic violence, or depression.”⁴³ By the late s, the ambitions of this modernist project had reached a point of exhaustion. Tambellini’s manic electromedia environments appropriate what Nieland terms “perceptual-affective techniques” originally developed to enhance viewing habits tied to Cold War vigilance and ideologically laden practices of consumer choice and redeploys them as weapons of destabilization against television’s routine administration of the senses. In the course of producing various iterations of Black TV, Tambellini stripped away the framing devices and rhetorical forms that would otherwise stitch moments of political crisis back into the normative televisual flow. His work unsettles the familiar codes of television’s information genres (news, documentary, special reports). For Tambellini, working with communications media was not simply a matter of appropriating televisual images but a method for manipulating modes of address developed by broadcasters to manage attention and affect. In the s artists and filmmakers developed new formal means for foregrounding television’s mediation of social order as defined by the interests of the state, capital, and cultural elites. This experimentation responded to television’s emergence as an important site of contestation in its own right. At the same time, attention to television’s administration of the senses informed conflicting accounts of the relationship between media and politics. Two Modes of Media Politics In  Michael Shamberg, one of the founders of the video collective Raindance and author of the influential “meta-manual” Guerrilla Television, laid out two distinct positions or means for countering television in polemical terms: “Instead of politicizing people with mass-TV, Guerrilla Television seeks to media-ize people against it.”⁴⁴ In the book’s preface, Tuning In


Shamberg credits Paul Ryan, who began experimenting with video while working as a research assistant to Marshall McLuhan at Fordham University, with coining the phrase “cybernetic guerrilla warfare.” For Ryan, “traditional guerrilla activity such as bombings, snipings, and kidnappings complete with printed manifestos” seemed like “so many ecologically risky shortchange feedback devices compared with the real possibilities of portable video, maverick data banks, acid metaprogramming, Cable TV, satellites, cybernetic craft industries, and alternative lifestyles. Yet the guerrilla tradition is highly relevant in the current information environment. Guerrilla warfare is by nature irregular and non-repetitive. Like information theory, it recognizes that redundancy can easily become reaction and result in entropy and defeat.”⁴⁵ Ryan’s account of cybernetic guerrilla warfare recalls the origins of cybernetics in the study of military operations. Norbert Weiner developed cybernetics as a theoretical field while working on the problem of how to automate antiaircraft artillery in the s, a process that involved developing what he described as a “theory of communication and control in the machine and in the living organism.”⁴⁶ Cybernetics names a science of control mechanisms involving automated adjustments determined by the communication of information or feedback within a system, wherein actions generate outcomes that become inputs determining further action. Messages transmitted over communication channels are subject to distortion. Claude Shannon provided an account of information in “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” published in , that made it possible to subject communication to statistical analysis, and thereby register and predict messages transmitted in the presence of noise.⁴⁷ Shannon was concerned with how to calculate channel capacity, or the rate at which information could be transmitted over a channel with a particular bandwidth (the range of frequencies used to transmit a signal) without error. When Ryan refers to the problem of redundancy, he’s drawing on a basic tenet of Shannon’s theory, which involves adding redundancy to transmissions over a noisy channel as a way to reduce the possibility of decoding errors. By endorsing “irregular and non-repetitive” guerrilla tactics within an information environment, Ryan sought to avoid the risks of actual military engagement, while imagining media practices capable of outmaneuvering the enemy, in this case, the gatekeepers of mass-TV. The approach to media politics embraced by Shamberg and the other members of Raindance grows out of early experiments with video by Ryan and his peers, including Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider (also founding members of the collective). Their seminal work Wipe Cycle (), a nine16


. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Diagram of Wipe Cycle, . Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

monitor “television mural,” appeared in the groundbreaking exhibition Television as a Creative Medium, staged in  at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. Shamberg met Gillette and Schneider while covering the exhibition as a critic, an encounter that led to the founding of Raindance. Wipe Cycle incorporates a built-in closed-circuit live feed subjected to brief intervals of delay (fig. .). Schneider describes the work this way: A live feedback system that enables a viewer standing in his environment to see himself not only now in time and space, but also  seconds ago and  seconds ago, and these are in juxtaposition and in flux. In Tuning In


addition, he sees standard broadcast images which come on at periods alternating with his live image, and also two programmed shows, which are collage-like, ranging from a shot of the earth from outer space to cows grazing to th Street. Somehow there’s a juxtaposition between the now of the person, the individual, with the elements of information about the Universe and America, and so the general reaction seems to have been a somewhat objectifying experience, and also a somewhat integrating experience in terms of one’s place in the Universe.⁴⁸

Wipe Cycle’s “feedback system” shares many of the preoccupations with “the expanded scales of sensory experience afforded by postwar technologies” that Nieland argues shaped the design of midcentury multiscreen displays.⁴⁹ Like earlier modernist collage practices that “achieved newly environmental and global aspirations” in the postwar period, Wipe Cycle attempts to accommodate viewers to forms of “sensory and medial extension” that will enhance a greater understanding of their place within an expanded technological total environment, beginning with a view of the planet as seen from outer space. Gillette explains that the delay system built into Wipe Cycle was “only an embryonic form” of an environment yet to be developed, “where you’re constantly tracking yourself every two seconds.” He describes this possibility as an “informational strobe,” distinguishing it from a light strobe. While flashing light in Tambellini’s work unbinds the image from the rhetorical supports that render it legible as political information, Gillette and Schneider propose a feedback system of strobing “information” that could reveal “habit patterns” back to viewers observing themselves. Once extended to “the notion of an environment,” this feedback would allow the viewer to see herself within a larger “social or spatial interaction.” Over time, “being media-ized” through “seeing yourself in front of a TV camera—seeing the feedback” would foster “the notion that we’re all potential actors-effectors of the environment.” Within this framework, video was celebrated as a revolutionary means for “reshaping ourselves.” Gillette offers a vision of an impending media revolution that would become foundational for Raindance going forward: The revolution in America is not going to result from the clash of political ideologies; it is going to result from the saturation of information and the modes of information dissemination being entirely different, and at that point you’ll have the American Revolution; and the only violence will be done to its own history, or its own sense of history.⁵⁰ 18


Gillette and Schneider imagine an affirmative process of social transformation through self-adjustment achieved by developing alternatives to broadcast formats that prevent viewers from feeding back into the system as information. By contrast, Tambellini is concerned primarily with normative processes of mediation, which his work radically disrupts. Although the final broadcast of Black Gate Cologne incorporated scenes of viewers reacting to the work as it unfolded, these scenes were created synthetically through video mixing after the fact rather than unfolding in real time, as in Wipe Cycle. Furthermore, his inclusion of Black TV within the broadcast introduces affective ruptures that the work does not attempt to recuperate through feedback as an automated process of self-adjustment. In this sense, Tambellini’s work betrays ambivalence about the prospect of employing feedback as a “post-political solution to cultural problems,” or what members of Raindance refers to as becoming “media-ized.” Instead, it works to disrupt the means by which “cultural problems” are framed and mediated as information in the first place. In Feedback: Television against Democracy, David Joselit examines television’s history as a commodity uniquely capable of facilitating the dissemination of other commodities. As such, television operates as a site “where the mobility of commodities is narrowly channeled in the service of sales.”⁵¹ Joselit is concerned with image-events or “acts of representation” that destabilize the relationship between the commodity and the televisual network, where the former stands as the privileged figure against the ground of the latter. He maps these disruptions in terms of an “uneven spectrum of cultural and capital investments made across an ecology of interrelated forms (which might encompass television, video art, and media appropriations of political activists).”⁵² He calls for a mode of ecoformalist analysis focused on tracing “images as events within integrated systems.”⁵³ Tambellini develops a practice that reverses these terms, tracing the ongoing reverberations of events by way of the broadcast images they set in motion. At the same time, he emphasizes feedback as a mode of producing noise, rather than as a means for fostering technologically induced self-adjustment. Whereas Joselit addresses television as a site of capital investment and the production of viewers as both consumers and product (organized into demographically distinct populations whose attention is sold to advertisers), many of the works I analyze are instead concerned with the way television consolidates authority, often in concert with the state, addressing viewers as citizens to mitigate political disruptions of order, planned and unplanned. The channeling of images in these works has less Tuning In


to do with “sales” in the conventional sense than with the formal and institutional means by which television media operate as part of what would have been called “the Establishment” in the parlance of the period. Each of this book’s chapters is organized around a conflict that challenges the legitimacy and authority claimed by broadcasters within this context: disputes over access to televisual documents pertaining to historical events, the staging or framing of political protests, and the roles or identities that the mediation of these events render legible and legitimate. While Tambellini and many of his contemporaries were interested in upending the everyday commercial operations of television, their work takes up images of events, often drawn from news media, that disrupt the order secured by network broadcasting. Television news emerges as a peculiar kind of commodity within this work, obeying some of the rules that apply to other programs and televisual products but violating others. This is due in part to the unique role network news production plays in serving the public interest. In the bargain struck between commercial broadcasters and the state, the networks were granted access to the airwaves, understood as a public good. In exchange, they were required to demonstrate some commitment to serving the public, even if this quickly became a self-serving proposition. Over the course of the s, the networks increasingly staked their prestige on the quality of their news programming, and this in turn helped garner further profits from advertising. At times, reporting on certain events warranted interrupting or suspending regularly scheduled programming. In the chapters that follow, I detail how artists and other media producers exaggerated, interrogated, and reimagined these disruptions, unsettling the networks’ efforts to shore up their own value and social authority in moments of crisis. Shamberg and other members of Raindance reject the possibility of “politicizing people with mass-TV” in favor of “media-iz[ing] people against it.” By contrast, the figures at the center of The Channeled Image are concerned with analyzing and testing the limits of television as a political instrument. Critically aware of television’s outsize role in American politics, these artists and filmmakers sought to reinvent the medium as a site of collective mediation and public address from below, even as they were often conflicted about how this might be accomplished in practice. Nevertheless, their work shares an interest in how television channels images, not only in the service of disseminating commodities, but also for the purpose of consolidating publics and enacting authority, operations that must be continuously maintained and therefore may be disrupted or challenged. Channeling recurs in this work as a formal trope that takes 20


on different forms (erratic flickering, waves of static, the sudden appearance of unexpected images, split- or multiscreen projection, simultaneous broadcast on different frequencies). In each case, formal manipulations expose the televisual mediation of political crisis as a historically contingent process, subject to appropriation and contestation. The book’s first two chapters focus on commercial television, taking up work made in response to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Vietnam War. The third and fourth chapters look at two important sites of artists’ television in the early days of public television—WNET in New York City and WGBH in Boston—to examine how artists, radical filmmakers, and television producers exploited public television’s mandate to provide increased access to the airwaves and productively engage viewers in public debate, a mandate made all the more urgent by growing disillusionment with the principles of nonviolent protest after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.⁵⁴ Chapter , “Network Media/TV Nation,” examines a group of films made in response to the assassination of President Kennedy that index the growing influence of network television news in the period between  and . The chapter begins by analyzing how Bruce Conner’s short experimental film report (–) disrupts the national return to order promised by the media event of Kennedy’s televised funeral. It then turns to a lesser-known work by Conner, the gallery-based projection television assassination (–/), a sequel-like pendant to report focused on the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s accused assassin. The chapter concludes with a close reading of Emile de Antonio’s feature-length documentary Rush to Judgment (), which investigates the suppression of eyewitness testimony by the Warren Commission, the congressional committee tasked with investigating the presidential assassination. Similarly thwarted in their efforts to acquire commercial television news footage directly from the networks, both Conner and De Antonio invented or reproduced restricted television material by other filmic means. For instance, when CBS withheld revealing outtakes from interviews with eyewitnesses to the assassination, De Antonio went to Dallas to gather his own testimonies. Shot in a style the filmmaker describes as “art brut,” these long, unbroken statements depart from the succinct, engineered clarity typical of edited television interviews. In this way, De Antonio insists on preserving elements of these eyewitness testimonies that the network might otherwise have jettisoned. Conner instead reinvents footage withheld by the networks in other ways. He employs novelty newsreel footage to imagine a live television broadcast of Kennedy’s assassination that Tuning In


never happened in report, and footage shot directly from the television screen as Oswald was gunned down during a live broadcast in television assassination. While De Antonio opts for an evidentiary aesthetic, “as plain as a typed sheet of paper,” as one critic described it, Conner’s films employ rapid cuts and roll bars captured through refilming to produce a convulsive image of national crisis.⁵⁵ Despite these stylistic differences, both filmmakers seek to destabilize efforts by broadcasters to shore up the legitimacy of state power (and by extension their own authority) in the aftermath of Kennedy’s unexpected death. Chapter , “Movement Media/War on Television,” considers how the broadcasting norms thrown into relief by Conner and De Antonio were reimagined by artists and radical filmmakers in response to efforts by the networks to mediate American military intervention in Vietnam. This chapter takes as its focus the artist Carolee Schneemann’s “kinetic theater” piece Snows () and the radical film collective Newsreel’s short film No Game (). Snows, a live event incorporating projected films, flickering strobe lights, and an electronic feedback system, was produced as part of an artist-led demonstration against American intervention in Vietnam. The title evokes an open channel beset by television static, but also reports of war rendered as banal as a weather forecast. The chapter begins by analyzing Schneemann’s attempts to counter numbed responses to the distant war by way of intensified sensory awareness in Snows. It then turns to an analysis of Newsreel’s short agitprop film, which documents the March on the Pentagon in October . At the climax of the film, scenes from Vietnam—women and children, prisoners, and casualties—momentarily suspend violent clashes between antiwar protesters and military police. These unbidden images come into view as if channeled from some unknown source, heightening the urgency of ending the war. This chapter examines how embodied forms of performance and protest condition the appearance of news images from Vietnam in Snows and No Game. It argues that Schneemann’s Snows anticipates the shift toward greater militancy advocated by Newsreel, while also providing an important countermodel to the confrontational tactics employed by the film collective. Chapter , “We Interrupt This Program . . . ,” begins with the brief occupation of a television studio at Channel , New York City’s first nonprofit educational station (soon to become WNET, an important site of innovative public television broadcasting). During a panel discussion on the underground press, members of Newsreel broke into the studio and confronted the television cameras directly. While critiquing television’s exclusionary codes, one of the panelists uttered an obscenity on-air that 22


violated FCC regulations. His remarks shaped how the occupation was covered in the New York Times and elsewhere, further demonstrating how media screen out voices of dissent. A year later, members of Newsreel involved in the television studio occupation released Summer ’  (), a film that situates this brief attempt to take over the airwaves within a broader analysis of the protests at the  Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film endorses the possibility that people can “act against media” and in doing so challenge the terms that condition and delimit their access to the airwaves. This chapter argues that once filmmakers and artists entered the television studio, the question of who could speak and how emerged as unavoidable, even in works that imagined television as a completely open channel available to all. In  WNET established TV Lab as an incubator for innovative artist-led programming. The second half of the chapter looks at the way artists Yoko Ono, Douglas Davis, and Nam June Paik reframed calls for expanded access in experimental programming produced at WNET into the mid-s. Chapter , “Public Television/Nervous System,” looks at WGBHBoston during the early days of public television to consider how it sought to mediate crises within the civil rights movement, both prior to and after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. While riots were breaking out elsewhere across the nation, broadcasters at WGBH aired a live concert by James Brown in a bid to keep people off the streets in Boston. This chapter argues that Brown’s legendary concert laid the groundwork for Stan VanDerBeek’s experimental television broadcast Violence Sonata (), produced while VanDerBeek was an artist-in-residence at WGBH. Like Brown’s concert, Violence Sonata attempted to enlist television in the project of preventing social and political tensions from erupting into violence. Violence Sonata took the form of a double-channel broadcast appearing on two separate frequencies simultaneously. It mixed live audio from callers at home into a found footage video collage that included scenes of rioting and war alongside slapstick stunts and technological disasters. VanDerBeek hoped that the work would transform public television into “an integral part of the city’s communal nervous system.” This chapter analyzes Violence Sonata’s performative violation of public television’s newly established codes of civic discourse, codes developed to manage implicitly racialized and gendered forms of expression. Among his peers, VanDerBeek was the least ambivalent about seeking “post-political solutions” to cultural problems. Violence Sonata enthusiastically embraced this possibility just as Raindance was beginning to popularize the idea in . I argue that VanDerBeek’s ultimate disappointment with Violence Tuning In


Sonata revealed the limitations of this project, while also laying bare the burden television places on minoritarian subjects to perform as mediators in moments of political crisis. The conclusion considers the continued relevance of the channeled image in contemporary art. It begins by looking at two recent installations by Tambellini that revisit his work of the s and s, Black Matters () and The Black TV Project (). It then turns to a reading of Kahlil Joseph’s blknws (–) and Sondra Perry’s Resident Evil (). Joseph and Perry engage with familiar conventions of cable television news, while also confronting the mediation of Black social life and death online. While Tambellini foregrounds how television leverages immediacy to direct attention and political affect, Joseph and Perry instead ask us to consider television’s role in politics with a longer view to the past. Their work employs contemporary desktop editing practices shaped by the abundance of archival media now accessible online, while at the same time recalling earlier struggles over access and representation on television. In the s images circulated through the airwaves as broadcast signals. Artists and other media producers developed inventive ways to capture and reconstruct these images before eventually finding their way into television studios, where they could produce and transform televisual images directly. Experimenting with the formal effects of channeling in different ways, their work foregrounds the way television directs attention and manages affect to secure social order and generate value. Vitally, then, channeling is not simply a technological possibility but necessarily a political practice, with implications that inform how contemporary artists work with images now found and shared online.



1 Network Media/TV Nation

Reports that President John F. Kennedy had been shot interrupted soap operas and talk shows on November , . Millions of Americans watched as network newscasters scrambled to piece together an account of the events unfolding in Dallas from reporters on the scene that Friday afternoon. CBS, the first of the three major networks to break into its regularly scheduled programming, did not have a camera ready in its New York newsroom when word of the shooting came over the wire. Audiences saw a static network placard as Walter Cronkite relayed the news from a radio booth. Similar audio bulletins were aired on NBC and ABC minutes later. When the story broke, there was no official word on the status of the president’s injuries. Viewers were forced to wait anxiously for nearly an hour before the assassination was formally confirmed.¹ For three and a half days over that long weekend, people gathered around the television in unprecedented numbers to watch the networks’ improvised continuous coverage of the shooting and the carefully planned memorial service that followed. Bruce Conner’s short experimental film report (–) looks to President Kennedy’s assassination as a watershed moment in television newscasting.² The film’s explosive montage reactivates the initial uncertainty triggered by the assassin’s bullets, undermining the reassuring image of power in transition that the networks worked tirelessly to produce. Offering a provocative counterimage to the scenes of collective mourning broadcast

in the days following the assassination, report pictures a nation riven by antagonism and unpredictable violence. While working on report, Conner also shot footage that would later appear in the looped gallery-based projection, television assassination (/–). These two works developed in tandem, each addressing different aspects of the assassination and its ongoing mediation. report revisits the shift from breaking news of the assassination to the media event of the state funeral that followed. television assassination, by contrast, focuses on the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, both the immediate aftermath of the event, which was accidentally broadcast live, and the more extended period of investigations surrounding Oswald’s role in the assassination. Before making films, Conner had been known primarily for his assemblages of scavenged materials—costume jewelry, torn stockings, feathers, and other trinkets recovered from rubbish bins and dusty junk shops. To make his first film, a movie (), he sourced footage from decade-old novelty newsreels. report and television assassination, by distinction, grew out of Conner’s experience of watching television immediately after Kennedy’s assassination, marking a departure from his use of materials already patinated by the passing of time. report replicates the erratic rhythms of breaking news, but the sense of immediacy is overlaid with the discomfort of reliving an infamous event that has already come to pass. In television assassination, Conner returns to images of Kennedy and Oswald once presented as breaking news. Instead of asking what happened, or who did it, both works are concerned with the repeated mediation of events and the question of how televisual authority is bound up with this ongoing process. The second half of the chapter turns to Emile de Antonio’s featurelength documentary Rush to Judgment (), which also interrogates how the networks exercised control over how the event of Kennedy’s assassination was mediated and made meaningful after the fact. De Antonio’s unique style of political filmmaking owes as much to the avant-garde as Conner’s experimental work owes to the forensic and analytical practices of documentary cinema. De Antonio often noted the influence of his friend John Cage on his work. Cage showed him that “art can be made out of junk as much as it can out of beautifully shot stuff.”³ As Conner and De Antonio sought to disrupt the control exercised by commercial broadcasters over the story of the assassination, each performatively reenacted the networks’ own practices of mediation. Both filmmakers were denied access to the broadcast footage they required for their work. As a result, each 26

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improvised using “junk” footage, either scavenged from alternative sources or shot with humble means. Considered together, their films define the wide spectrum of experimentation prompted by the growing influence of network television in American politics. Though Conner’s emphasis on cinematic effect departs from De Antonio’s concern with filmic evidence, both filmmakers deploy mimetic strategies that cut across experimental and radical forms of cinematic production all too often understood as opposed or unrelated. “Channeling” names a way of working with broadcast images that shifts over time and operates differently in different contexts. Tracing the development of Conner’s work from his earliest engagements with television in the late s through to the staging of television assassination in  reveals a range of channeling practices related to the artist’s preoccupation with the technical, commercial, and institutional aspects of broadcasting. Placing Conner’s work into dialogue with De Antonio’s film draws out the way each performatively reenacts or mimics efforts by television broadcasters to redirect attention and manage crisis. report registers the unprecedented disruption of scheduled programming prompted by the networks’ continuous coverage of the assassination and the coordinated media response required to rechannel attention back into regularly scheduled programming. Conner begins to analyze how, after Kennedy’s assassination, certain images or media icons, such as Kennedy and Oswald, were deployed in the process of reestablishing televisual and social order disrupted by an unanticipated act of violence. (Kennedy was, of course, a highly televisual icon adept at fashioning his own image, which might be understood as another mode of channeling in this context.) Channeling takes different forms in the work Conner produced in the s and s. television assassination, begun in  but not exhibited until , adopts the logic of the media event analyzed in report through its own staging as an event. Here, channeling emphasizes the way Oswald’s image is mobilized to assert discursive control over a highly unstable media image or icon. Conner’s preoccupations with the televisual remediation of Oswald’s death intersects with De Antonio’s analysis of the Warren Report in Rush to Judgment. Though Conner and De Antonio employ similar formal techniques of repetition, each emphasizes the relationship between television and the state differently. Conner draws upon a network imaginary that conflates technology and politics, whereas De Antonio is concerned with how the airwaves are administered as a public good in more concrete terms.

Network Media/TV Nation


A Unique Event Television newsmen worked around the clock to provide a reassuring image of political transition after Kennedy’s assassination, but for all their efforts to channel confusion and despair into a solemn and orderly memorial, they could not fully contain the violent aftershocks of the event. The first bulletins announcing the shooting were immediately followed by ads for antacids and laundry starch. When Cronkite finally appeared on camera, he was in his shirtsleeves at a desk in the middle of a newsroom buzzing with frantic activity. There were other disconcerting shocks and technical difficulties built into the coverage that followed: NBC had a direct line to a reporter with the motorcade, but the “telephone amplifier” in the New York studio generated nothing but feedback, making it impossible to broadcast his voice on-air. The first images recorded at the scene of the shooting in Dallas could not be shown immediately due to the delay required for processing the film. Shot by an NBC cameraman running toward the president’s car as it sped off to the hospital, the footage was aired unedited despite its chaotic, disjointed form.⁴ Perhaps the greatest shock came two days later when the procession accompanying Kennedy’s body from the White House to the Capitol was interrupted by reports that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot and killed by Jack Ruby, an event that viewers tuned to NBC saw broadcast live. Providing continuous coverage of Kennedy’s assassination required the networks to manage daunting technical constraints and jarring contingencies as never before.⁵ Kennedy’s telegenic performance during the presidential debates in  had been a decisive factor in his election. Once in office, he became the first president to hold live televised press conferences.⁶ Before then, television news had often lacked the strong sense of immediacy such live events generated. Throughout the first half of the s, newsreel companies supplied the networks with moving images for their nightly newscasts. Video became available in  but was not widely adopted right away. When the networks began to produce their own news footage, they relied largely on mobile  mm film cameras in the field. The time required for shipping, processing, and editing this footage hindered the immediacy of television news. Live broadcasting was still largely reserved for well-planned events such as political conventions and speeches, a standard established in  with the first national broadcast of a speech by President Harry S. Truman. During Kennedy’s time in office, the growing ease of shooting on video and the introduction of satellite hookups helped improve the visual dynamism of television newscasting. In addition, con28

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cerns stemming from regulators further pushed commercial broadcasters to develop higher standards for news production, especially after the chairman of the FCC, Newton Minow, criticized the networks for turning the airwaves into a “vast wasteland” in .⁷ Prompted by fears of greater government oversight, the networks began committing more resources to their television news bureaus, and by September , CBS and NBC had expanded their nightly newscasts from fifteen to thirty minutes. Nonetheless, before the assassination most journalists still considered television to be an inferior news medium to print.⁸ Live coverage of Kennedy’s death and the memorial service that followed played an important role in legitimating television as a medium of news transmission. An early scholarly study of the media’s response to the assassination offers this account of the intimate, cathartic experience television allowed millions to share: The viewers were purging themselves of their burden of grief and anger by going through acts of mourning, much as they might have done for a family bereavement. They were weeping, secretly or openly, over the sights of the national tragedy. They were participating as much as they could in memorial events. They were going to a funeral. And they were doing these things together!⁹

The three major networks worked quickly to produce the elaborate staging of Kennedy’s funeral. Together, they set up more than fifty cameras along the procession route and pooled the resulting live feeds, making it possible to broadcast every minute of the memorial service on Monday, November , .¹⁰ After the assassination, the networks established conventions that turned the unpredictability of live newscasting to their advantage—keeping a camera at the ready in the studio and allowing viewers to catch glimpses of the newsroom in the background of the nightly newscast. These new broadcast standards and formats linked spontaneity and immediacy to televisual authority. Breaking news became an opportunity to perform composure under pressure. The medium’s newly won legitimacy was not, however, to be taken for granted. It had to be shored up continually, particularly when confronted by voices of dissent as the decade worn on. In the words of David Halberstam, “The old order was being challenged and changed in every sense, racially, morally, culturally, spiritually,” a situation made all the more evident by the ongoing “struggle over who would define news, the people in positions of power or the people in the streets.”¹¹ Network Media/TV Nation


There was no live television feed of the presidential motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was shot. report is marked indelibly by what Conner saw as network newsmen struggled to provide an account of what had happened after the fact. The title, report, evokes both the news “report” and the audible “report” of a gun.¹² While the latter generates shock, the former functions as a means for creating order out of chaos. Bringing these two distinct valences together, Conner critically dissects how television works to secure “existing structures of authority” and what happens when that process is suddenly thrown into crisis. In his words: The day Kennedy was assassinated was a very unique event. Nothing has ever happened like that since. All communications were blocked off. Nobody could understand whether you know, we’re in a military takeover and we’re all going to be pulled off into concentration camps the next day or what was going on. The theaters closed and radio didn’t broadcast anything except repetitive authorized “news.” On television you kept seeing the same images again and again just like in report. And then they brought out Oswald and killed him on camera for everybody like a television show.¹³

Here, Conner’s account of the “unique event” of Kennedy’s assassination recalls Mary Ann Doane’s description of crisis as “an event of some duration which is startling and momentous precisely because it demands resolution within a limited period of time.” Doane notes that, etymologically, “crisis” stems from the Greek krisis, or decision, and therefore necessarily involves some aspect of human agency. As a result, she argues, crises tend to involve political events, including assassinations. She opposes crisis to two other televisual genres: the ubiquitous flow of information, which “fills time,” and the instantaneity of catastrophe, which “happens all at once.”¹⁴ Crisis, by contrast, involves a condensation of temporality. Conner’s report intervenes in the process of memorializing condensation to prevent the closure that would otherwise bring resolution to the crisis of Kennedy’s death. report begins by imagining a live report of the assassination that never happened. The film opens with television footage of the president and first lady waving from their limo (fig. .). A local radio reporter narrates the scene. Unlike the audio bulletins aired on television after the shooting, events here are relayed as they unfold in real time. As the president’s car nears the edge of the frame, however, it suddenly jerks back. Through a 30

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. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

series of jump cuts, this stuttering motion repeats. The on-the-spot radio coverage heightens the tension produced by the inconstant image. When the reporter remarks haltingly, “It . . . it appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route,” this tension erupts in a quick succession of single frames clipped from bits of film leader, simulating a technical breakdown or transmission failure. Though this sequence races by, individual high-contrast frames are partially legible. A focus ring reads as a rifle sight (fig. .). A single frame marked “head” grimly activates the multivalent nature of many other bits of language printed on standard academy film leader, including “finish,” “agency,” “product,” and “picture.” Then all at once, the screen is overtaken by flashing light. Quick, rhythmic cuts between clear leader and partially exposed single frames generate a riot of unpredictable optical effects—neural stimulation evocatively described by one reviewer as “electrical anarchy.”¹⁵ Here, Conner shifts the locus of attention from the screen to the more indeterminate space of mental projection. In an interview, he described his desire “to get in people’s heads,” noting that “people in that situation start to create patterns from the flickering light—they’re not on screen, they’re in your mind.”¹⁶ As the frames alternate with greater speed, hallucinatory, formNetwork Media/TV Nation


. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

less, fluorescent apparitions begin to appear—optical impressions caused by the oscillation of the flicker, not the result of a projected image.¹⁷ Over the course of this three-minute stroboscopic sequence, frantic real-time reports on the soundtrack amplify the visual disorientation. A mobile unit races to the hospital. Sirens wail. Simulating a stream of electromagnetic pulses, or an open channel devoid of a visual signal, Conner evokes the technological infrastructures that support network broadcasting.¹⁸ At the same time, the flickering screen provokes paranoia about events that cannot be seen, conflating media networks with the machinations of hidden power. The stroboscopic sequence in report is followed by a series of haunting recurrences. A police officer displays a rifle to reporters in a crowded hallway (fig. .). Jackie Kennedy pulls at the locked door of an ambulance sitting on a darkened runway (fig. .). Movement in each case stutters and repeats as it did in the film’s opening sequence. These scenes fix upon moments of confusion. The footage of the first lady was originally aired live upon her arrival back in Washington alongside Kennedy’s body and the newly sworn-in president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Newscasters had to improvise when the awkwardness of removing the heavy casket from Air Force 32

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. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

One temporarily stalled the ceremonial return to the nation’s capital. The footage of the rifle recovered from the Texas School Book Depository represents another instance where the contingencies of broadcasting generated images that could not be anticipated or adequately narrated as they occurred. Tom Pettit, a reporter for NBC, recalls: A number of police officials made statements, but these did not add up to a full explanation of events. Thus, there was inadequate explanation of the rifle that was carried aloft for all to see. . . . Television showed events without full explanation because full explanation was not available. Television showed what was happening; it conveyed the confusion of the moment.¹⁹

Through repetition, report intensifies the uncertainty that recurred throughout the continuous coverage of the assassination on television. The first half of report ends with a long run of film leader, a visual pun on Kennedy’s role as the “leader of the free world.”²⁰ Its appearance also signals a return to filmic order that mimics the shift from crisis to the media event of Kennedy’s memorial. Numbers from ten to three run down again and again in anticipation of the moment Kennedy’s death will be confirmed. During this sequence, an emotional eyewitness account of the shooting gives way to bland professional newspeak and the rhythms of the newsroom, with the clacking of the teletype machine audible in the background. Repetitive reports fill the time until Kennedy’s death is made official, underscoring how televisual authority is yoked to the careful management of contingency and affect, especially when broadcasting live. Conner marks the announcement of Kennedy’s death with three holes punched into three consecutive frames of film leader. Each void appears fleetingly at the center of the screen, producing a nearly imperceptible flash in the place of a focus ring. A single punch hole is a device that marks the synchronization of soundtrack and image, thus safeguarding cinematic illusion. Conner’s pointed repetition of this synching device (sometimes called a pop) is another visual pun evoking the three rifle shots that rang out in Dallas. The multiple pops suggest an excess of synchronization, anticipating the overdetermined links between sound and image that structure the film from that point forward. The second half of report, which Conner refers to as the film’s epilogue, undermines the efforts of network newsmen to reestablish order after the shock of Kennedy’s death, subverting television’s memorializing tributes to Kennedy’s achievements while in office. Conner’s montage ref34

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. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

erences advances in the space race, calls for civil rights, and the tense negotiation of the Cuban missile crisis, generating disruptive, contrapuntal effects, rife with bitter irony. Signifiers of Kennedy’s legacy are disrupted by the appearance of rowdy crowds, refrigerators, atomic explosions, and other fragments of Cold War–era ephemera. The mood shifts suddenly, without warning: people march for civil rights in one moment and cheer at a military parade or a bullfight in the next. A shot of a picador on a black steed calls to mind the horse that followed the caisson carrying Kennedy’s casket through the streets of Washington, DC, during his funeral (fig. .). As images on the screen echo scenes from the memorial, the soundtrack flashes back to the Kennedys’ arrival at Love Field in Dallas shortly before the assassination. Conner reframes the events surrounding Kennedy’s death in the future perfect tense, lending this sequence an impending sense of doom. The temporal doubling of past and present, before and after, contrasts sharply with the ongoing, real-time coverage of the assassination in the film’s first half. report hews as closely to the contingencies of the assassination coverage on television here as it does in the first half of the film. Footage of the president and first lady disembarking from Air Force One in Dallas Network Media/TV Nation


were among the first moving images viewers saw of the slain president after his death was officially confirmed.²¹ In report, Kennedy’s movement through the crowd at Love Field is illustrated by a montage that brings together scenes from his memorial with other images that appear unexpectedly, as if triggered by the rambling observations of the reporter at the scene. When the reporter casually remarks, for example, that nothing has been “left to chance” in planning the president’s trip to Dallas, an upsidedown shot of the Texas School Book Depository flashes on-screen. With the brief mention of hundreds of excited people waiting at the airfield to greet the president, another inverted shot appears. The caisson carrying Kennedy’s flag-draped coffin proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue before a solemn crowd, their long shadows stretching eerily across the bottom of the frame (fig. .). When the reporter announces the arrival of Air Force One, the film cuts to a shot of the plane sitting on the runway at Andrews Air Force Base later that evening with Kennedy’s casket inside, followed by a snippet of a commercial for a new breakfast cereal called Sugar Jets (figs.  . and .).²² The dark humor of this juxtaposition travesties the somber coverage of the flight back to Washington, DC, in preparation for the memorial to follow.

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.


Chapter One

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

report includes many fragments of found footage with no direct connection to Kennedy’s life or death. At one point, for example, a crew of linemen raise a telephone pole topped by a small American flag (fig. .). The flag serves as the only link between this strange scene and others that recur throughout the film, including the first shot, where a similar flag appears on the hood of the president’s car. While the flickering screen in the first half of report hints at a vast network of unseen power, in the epilogue that paranoid vision returns in fleeting glimpses of technological connectivity. The footage of the linemen comes from an industrial film entitled A Continent Is Bridged, produced by AT&T in  to dramatize the completion of the first transcontinental telephone network in . The final connection linking phone lines across the country was established in Wendover, Utah, not far from the site where train and telegraph networks were completed in . In reference to the celebrated final “golden spike” of the transcontinental railroad, the AT&T film commemorates the final “golden splice” in its coast-to-coast telephone network. The inclusion of this footage in report subtly references another filmic metaphor—the splice. It also suggests a vision of America as a vast, unruly nation held together (perhaps only precariously) by networks built for communication

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate. 38

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. AT&T, A Continent Is Bridged,  (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy AT&T Archives and History Center.

and commercial exchange.²³ The original AT&T film contains an image of a map of the United States traversed by a dense network of telephone lines (fig. .). Though this shot does not appear in report, its absence could be understood to haunt the film. Conner’s montage conjures the uncanny effects of America’s mediation as a nation in mourning, highlighting what Patrick Jagoda identifies as an emergent “network imaginary.”²⁴ report ends with an ominous image of a mysterious woman sitting before an electronic console (fig. .). She reappears intermittently during the film’s epilogue and in the final scene presses a button labeled “sell” (fig. .). This act suggests an almost cartoonish fantasy of technocratic power.²⁵ The footage comes from an industrial film made to promote IBM’s new SABRE computer system, an acronym that stands for Semi-Automatic Business-Related Environment. Originally developed for the Air Force and adapted for the airline industry to aid in processing flight reservations in real time, the appearance of this interface in report points to the imbrication of Cold War militarism and consumerism that recurs throughout the film. The system, which became fully operational in , was the first large, high-speed commercial computer/communications network. Linking sixty-four cities throughout the United States via ,  telephone Network Media/TV Nation


. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

lines and two thousand terminals, it constituted the largest civil data processing system in the world when it was introduced.²⁶ Conner’s inclusion of the SABRE system in report again conflates nation and network—now as infrastructure (computer network) and commercial system. Conner often described report as a film made in response to the crass commercialization of Kennedy’s image after the assassination.²⁷ The image of the sell button links this exploitation to the commodification of attention that underwrites commercial broadcasting. The Nielsen Company reported that more than  million televisions were tuned into President Kennedy’s funeral, and over  million people watched the memorial coverage worldwide. Nielsen ratings were central in the constitution of television audiences as populations of consumers whose viewing habits could be collected as data and packaged as attention for sale to advertisers.²⁸ In  media scholar Wilbur Schramm described the role television played in minimizing the possibility of a “mass uprising” after the assassination by reasserting a “focus on the presidency” and “America’s deep commitment to that institution and the rule of law and order.” Maintaining this focus required the networks to preempt regularly scheduled commercial programming and temporarily suspend all advertising. Schramm borrows the language of systems to theorize the homeostatic function of commercial media in times of crisis: Systems theory would describe the response to crisis as a sudden imbalance in the system, followed by emergency steps to restore balance, and then a gradual restoration of normal function around whatever new balance is achieved. This comes closer to describing what seems to have happened in the case of the Kennedy assassination.²⁹

In report, the appearance of unruly crowds stokes anxiety that the networks’ coverage of the memorial was carefully orchestrated to contain. Snippets of advertising and other footage drawn from newsreels, science films, and old movies transgress the suspension of commercial programming that occurred for three days following the assassination. report collapses the distinction between addressing viewers as citizens and as consumers, maximizing the tension between the everyday operations of commercial broadcasting and the exceptional political task thrust upon the networks by Kennedy’s assassination. report registers the stalled immediacy of Kennedy’s death as it unfolded live on television, but it also contracts a longer period of history Network Media/TV Nation


within its brief run time. Conner continued to edit the film long after the networks had returned to their regularly scheduled programs. In a lecture at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Conner explained how the film evolved between  and : “I’d make a print, I’d re-edit the film. It probably could have stopped at any point along the line, but I think probably it didn’t stop because, since [sic] the film has something to do with the exploitation of the man’s death.”³⁰ Elsewhere he describes report as a critique of “all sorts of memorabilia and nonsense documentaries and gooey posters.”³¹ Conner produced a total of eight different versions of the film. The overall length, determined by the soundtrack, never changed, and the epilogue changed little, but between  and , he reworked the first half of report, ultimately synthesizing all the variations into a final edit. This version of the film became the definitive one now in circulation. As Conner explains: One of them would be carrying the rifle down the hallway, repeating over and over for eight minutes while you listen to the soundtrack of the man’s death. Another one was Jacqueline Kennedy going up to the car, trying to open the door of the ambulance, which is locked, and stepping back. One is the motorcade going by over and over. The leader numbers. There was another one where she walked to the casket in state and kneeled down in front of it, kissed it, and walked back. At the same point where she started from, she ended up and then it’d start back again. It was sort of a perpetual movement.³²

The crisis that Conner pictures in report is not simply Kennedy’s death but the networks’ subsequent prompt return to business as usual. Releasing multiple versions of report, Conner created a film in a state of “perpetual movement” aimed at unsettling broadcasters’ efforts to restore order after the assassination. A Never-Ending Movie In  Conner was awarded a prestigious filmmaking grant by the Ford Foundation and planned to use the money to purchase news footage for report directly from the networks. He was, however, unsuccessful: I went to New York to CBS, NBC to try to get footage of the day he was shot, and I wasn’t able to really get it. They made it really difficult for me, mainly just shuttling me from one place to another. It became clear that 42

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they were very nervous about letting anybody have any of the film. So, I waited until the end of the year and got Castle home movies and started cutting them up.³³

report includes striking scenes from Parkland Hospital recorded just minutes after the president’s body was taken inside. Mourners cry out in shock at the news of the shooting (fig. .). The footage originally aired on CBS accompanied by improvised narration by Dan Rather. Much of the other film from Dallas that appears in report was also aired on CBS at the same time, including shots of the motorcade and the Texas School Book Depository. Unable to access this broadcast footage directly from the network, Conner sourced it instead from a novelty newsreel released by Castle Films, entitled John Fitzgerald Kennedy—Man and President. Available for sale in camera stores and hobby shops alongside other newsreel compilations created for home viewing, this film was precisely the kind of “gooey” commercial product Conner felt compelled to critique.³⁴ The commemorative newsreel recaps the major achievements of Kennedy’s career and includes highlights from the television coverage of his death and memorial. In this sense, it was an unusual media hybrid, much like report

. Bruce Conner, report, – (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes.

Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate. Network Media/TV Nation


itself, bringing together conventional newsreel footage with film shot for broadcast in a more intimate, ad hoc style. In report, Conner mimics the process of remediation required to create these commercial compilation reels and recordings.³⁵ In doing so, he decouples the footage a second time from the now-scripted voice-over narration, replacing it with recordings drawn from another bit of assassination memorabilia, an album entitled Four Days That Shocked the World.³⁶ Conner had, however, begun making report well before this commercial material was available to purchase—“the day Kennedy died,” he told one interviewer.³⁷ Instinctively, he began to film news coverage of the assassination directly from the television screen with a  mm camera.³⁸ This process of filming the TV monitor mimics another form of commercial remediation—the networks’ production of kinescope recordings. Kinescopes are film recordings of live broadcasts made directly from a television screen in the studio. The networks regularly made such recordings for archival purposes, but the practice also allowed them to rebroadcast programming that had been aired live in different time zones, albeit at lower image quality.³⁹ Kinescopes thus played an important role in establishing nationwide broadcast networks by way of asynchronous programming when simulcasting was not possible. Conner’s impulse to document the televised coverage of the assassination accounts for report’s responsiveness to the particularities of those broadcasts. However, none of the “home movie” kinescopes Conner shot appear in the final version of report. Conner continued to record directly from the television screen even after acquiring the cheap stock footage he used to complete report. A week after the assassination, President Johnson established the Warren Commission to investigate the killings of Kennedy and Oswald. When the commission finally released its findings to the public on September , , Conner again took out his  mm camera, this time to film news reports detailing its findings. NBC and CBS preempted regularly scheduled programing to air special coverage of the report. These programs presented reenactments of Kennedy’s death alongside interviews with eyewitnesses and footage from the networks’ original coverage of the story, including the often-replayed clip of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police headquarters. Conner edited the footage he filmed in  and , including a brief glimpse of the Warren Report’s front cover filmed from the networks’ coverage, into a short  mm film (fig. .). Later he reduced the footage to  mm and released it as a work “sold to individuals for their own personal use at home.”⁴⁰ In  he spliced together seven prints of this  mm 44

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. November nd and the Warren Report, CBS,  (video still), broadcast, b/w,

sound,  minutes.

film and exhibited it as a gallery-based looped projection entitled television assassination ().⁴¹ Characteristically, the title of Conner’s work reads multiple ways, leaving the viewer to decide if television is the medium, target, or perpetrator of the assassination at issue. In place of a movie screen in the gallery, he installed a s-era television set that he modified by painting the screen “flat white” and severing the power cord.⁴² Projector and television come together to form an unlikely sculptural apparatus (plate ). Significantly, Conner referred to television assassination as “an event” rather than as a sculpture or an installation.⁴³ Whereas report focuses on the media event of Kennedy’s death and funeral, Conner describes the subject of television assassination as “the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald as celebrated on television Thanksgiving weekend in .”⁴⁴ Noting the coincidence of Oswald’s death with the annual celebration of America’s founding myth, Conner evokes a primal scene of repressed violence doomed to repetition. A Thanksgiving turkey emerges from a warm oven, a large Salem cigarette floats over the face of the newly sworn-in president (fig. .). As in report, Conner juxtaposes this news footage with fragments of commercials, but here through double exposure rather than crosscutting. Conner filmed the television Network Media/TV Nation


. Bruce Conner, television assassination, –/ (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate.

at different speeds, exposing one frame at a time or creating layered exposures in camera. The resulting footage is marked by the appearance of roll bars and raster lines (fig. .). Familiar images from the assassination coverage return to the screen in television assassination, including the rifle that appears in report, but instead of emphasizing the shock and uncertainty of breaking news, television assassination exaggerates the blurry, videographic qualities of this footage. Images on-screen seem to bear the visual traces of having been broadcast again and again. Conner initially worked on his two Kennedy films simultaneously, but he continued to edit report, compiling a final version in , while setting television assassination aside after . He resumed work on the latter in , the year Castle Films discontinued the annual News Parade highlight reels it had distributed since .⁴⁵ It was also the year the American public first saw footage of Kennedy’s death on television. In  Life magazine had published still frames from a film shot by Abraham Zapruder that captured the shooting.⁴⁶ The Warren Commission also included a series of stills in its report. But the footage had never been broadcast on television. On March , , the Zapruder film appeared on Goodnight America, hosted by Geraldo Rivera. The late-night 46

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program featured critics of the Warren Report and aired the previously unseen footage of the assassination alongside other familiar clips from the original coverage of the event. Significantly, Conner debuted television assassination at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just a few weeks later.⁴⁷ In  Zapruder had filmed the president’s motorcade with a Bell & Howell  mm home-movie camera, the same small-gauge format used by Castle Films for its News Parade series and by Conner in television assassination. In  the era of the home-movie newsreel was in decline, but the broadcast revelation of previously unseen  mm footage of Kennedy’s death provided the occasion for Conner to revive the ghostly broadcast images he had recorded directly from his television set more than a decade earlier. television assassination was not Conner’s first gallery-based film work. In  he had exhibited eve-ray-forever, a multichannel work based on his short film cosmic ray. Conner made the work for three  mm projectors, which played three silent film loops side by side simultaneously.⁴⁸ He first contemplated setting up a looped projection in the gallery while making his first film, a movie. Conner has called a movie “an anti-movie,” while others have understood it as a metamovie or, as David

. Bruce Conner, television assassination, –/ (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Bruce Conner Estate. Network Media/TV Nation


James describes it, an “anatomy of all previous movies.”⁴⁹ Made entirely of footage Conner culled from novelty newsreel and movie compilation reels sold for home viewing, cinematic condensation is both its method of production and its primary theme. Conner originally envisioned showing the film as a rear projection on the walls of an environment that he described as “a small cube of about  ×  ×  feet that you could stand inside.” The space would be pervaded by flashing lights and “tape recordings, radio programs, and television sound that would impinge aurally on the viewer at random moments.”⁵⁰ Due to the prohibitive costs involved in this technical setup, Conner ultimately released a movie as a short synch-sound  mm film formatted for a conventional theatrical setting.⁵¹ Although he was unable to show the work as a loop, he nonetheless “tried to capture this idea in what became the final version by splicing ‘The End’ into the film, but not at the actual end of the film.”⁵² As with report, Conner drew upon Castle home movies to make a movie, since he could not otherwise afford to acquire the footage he desired to work with.⁵³ Using borrowed editing equipment, he spent two weeks splicing the found footage that appears in a movie, which includes scenes from novelty newsreels alongside clips from B westerns and cheap erotica.⁵⁴ The idea for the installation came directly out of his process of editing: Every time I’d splice a bunch of it, I’d run it on a projector and turn on the radio to see what happened with the sound. Because the idea I had in mind then, I was doing a lot of assemblages and collages, so I wanted to build a sort of little room box with mirrors and tape machines and video television sets and tape recordings and this movie, which would go on continuously. Every time it’d go through, there would be different sounds on tape, radio sounds, music. So that every time you saw the images, which sort of played off of each other, it would be a different context. It would be a brand-new movie every time.⁵⁵

Elsewhere, Conner admits to being fascinated by the concept of “a neverending movie,” and observes, “of course television is like never-ending movies too.”⁵⁶ The title a movie plays on the idea of B movies, low-budget productions that were often shown as the second half of a double feature, a model of distribution that had been largely phased out by the time a movie was released in . By then, the B westerns that appear in a movie had made the transition to the small screen, becoming a popular mainstay of the 48

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television schedule. In fact, early broadcasts of familiar westerns were so popular that network executives decided not to produce any new westerns specifically for television right away. Instead, they reedited existing features from the s down to broadcast length.⁵⁷ a movie takes its cue from this strategy, cutting up any and all old junk movie material and placing it into a new context.⁵⁸ The film mimics and exaggerates the editing practices used by broadcasters to bring B movies to the small screen. report and television assassination depart from Conner’s focus, in the s, on the general conditions of televisual remediation to focus on the event of Kennedy’s death and its aftermath. Each film develops distinct formal means for depicting the channeled image. report uses a blank, flickering screen to provoke anxiety about the mysterious unseen forces behind the event, which the film relates to the sudden disappearance and reappearance of images on-screen. television assassination animates this anxiety differently, through a process of refilming that produces videographic distortion. Conner relates the rolling black lines that appear on-screen in television assassination to the political control of information. The “roll bar” phenomenon of horizontal black lines occurs, as he explains, because synchronization of film to video transmission is incompatible. “The black lines almost seem as if certain information is being excluded, perhaps to protect the innocent, protect the guilty?”⁵⁹ Here Conner analogizes the techno-electronic effects on-screen to the Warren Commission’s suppression of information about the assassination. As in report, Conner correlates the channeled image to the hidden operations of political power. He is less interested in uncovering the truth of what happened than in pointing out the means by which truth is regularly obscured—as often through overexposure as by means of overt suppression. report calls attention to the role television broadcasters played in restoring a sense of order after the assassination. television assassination instead amplifies the repetitions and temporal distortions that occurred during rebroadcasts of Oswald’s shooting. NBC, the only network to broadcast the shooting live, replayed the footage repeatedly. Making use of video technology that had been available since  but previously used only in sportscasting, both NBC and CBS also replayed the chaotic footage in slow motion.⁶⁰ ABC did not have a live feed available at the scene when Oswald was shot. The network’s cameraman nonetheless captured the clearest view of the shooting on film. This is the footage that appears in television assassination, allowing Conner to reenact the slow-motion remediation exercised by the other networks, a painstaking visual analysis Network Media/TV Nation


that nonetheless offers no new insight into the significance of Ruby’s act of violence. The footage of Oswald, already distorted through refilming, is further abstracted by slow-motion projection at a rate of five frames per second in television assassination.⁶¹ As a result, movement onscreen appears suspended and incomplete. Oswald’s grim march down the basement hallway drags on interminably, becoming nearly illegible in the process.⁶² Exaggerating the network’s use of slow motion to dissect the event of the shooting, Conner subjects all of the footage in television assassination to the same extreme reduction in speed, which lends the work its strange, spectral quality. report and television assassination are films haunted by the televisual deaths of two men whose lives intersected disastrously. Kennedy’s death remained traumatically absent from view, while Oswald’s became hypervisible. Both events were subjected to repeated interrogation and endowed with conflicting political significance. Conner retraces the process of remediation that kept images of Kennedy and Oswald in circulation long after their lives had ended. In report, he reprises scenes culled from the novelty newsreel John Fitzgerald Kennedy—Man and President that were originally aired during the networks’ continuous coverage of the assassination. In television assassination, these scenes return to the television screen once again. The presence of the home movie projector and television set in the gallery concretizes the movement of images through interconnected media networks, from television newscast to News Parade newsreel. This looped circulation dramatizes efforts to contain or exploit the meaning of these media events as ongoing and ultimately unresolved.⁶³ We Are the Jury In September  Walter Cronkite concluded a CBS news special on the Warren Report by reminding viewers that Oswald’s untimely death had preempted the legal process of determining his guilt or innocence (fig. .).⁶⁴ In lieu of a trial, he urged his fellow Americans to exercise their own judgment when assessing the validity of the report, signing off : “We are the jury, all of us, in America and throughout the world.” The Warren Commission found that Oswald had acted as a lone gunman and laid partial blame for this death on the media for demanding he be paraded in front of their cameras, thus exposing him to undue risk. Conner’s work does not challenge these conclusions directly. Instead, television assassination is concerned with the way the release of the Warren Commission’s report brought images of Oswald back to the television screen in , as did 50

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. November nd and the Warren Report, CBS,  (video still), broadcast, b/w,

sound,  minutes.

the Goodnight America broadcast in .⁶⁵ Conner aims his critique at attempts by broadcasters to exercise control over the political meaning of these images. In this regard, he is less concerned with the question of Oswald’s guilt or innocence than with the channeling of his image through networks where political power and authority are at stake. In the same year that Conner completed report, Emile de Antonio released Rush to Judgment, a film that takes up Cronkite’s invitation to carefully weigh the evidence presented by the Warren Report. Produced in collaboration with the author Mark Lane, the feature-length documentary presents the case that might have been made by the defense had Oswald been tried.⁶⁶ As De Antonio told the New York Times, Rush to Judgment questioned “the investigational procedures of the commission under Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, with cross-examination as the cornerstone.”⁶⁷ Elsewhere, echoing Cronkite’s closing remarks, he described the film’s audience as “a kind of jury.”⁶⁸ Rush to Judgment examines testimony offered by key witnesses, highlighting contradictory evidence excluded from the Warren Report and the network’s coverage of its release. Like Conner, De Antonio was less concerned with Oswald’s guilt or innocence than with the question of how the mass media participates in exercising political Network Media/TV Nation


control over information that should rightfully be made public. He also confronted the difficulty of acquiring the news footage he needed to make his film. As a result, he drew upon alternate sources and even attempted to reconstruct some footage that was otherwise inaccessible. Where Conner’s work is evocative and haunting, De Antonio’s is plainspoken and direct. As a political documentary, Rush to Judgment places its emphasis on the careful reconstruction of eyewitness testimony. While Conner explores lingering uncertainties by means of formal manipulation, De Antonio instead engages in documentary modes of analysis. Despite these differences in approach and style, the two filmmakers pursue complementary strategies of appropriation and mimetic performance to address television’s political function in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination. De Antonio began to examine television as a platform for American political spectacle in his first film, Point of Order (). That film reconstructs one of the most closely watched broadcast events of the s, the Army-McCarthy Senate hearings of . Like Conner, De Antonio began his career working with found footage, in this case kinescopes of the televised proceedings that he acquired from CBS. Point of Order condenses  hours of material originally shown live on television, highlighting a series of dramatic turning points in the hearings without the intervention of a narrator. The film invites viewers to judge the credibility of the public figures involved in the proceedings, primarily Senator Joe McCarthy and the legal counsel for the US Army, Joseph Welch. Rather than celebrate the fall of McCarthy, De Antonio’s aim was to reveal how both the senator and his adversary had engaged in ethically suspect tactics. As De Antonio saw it, no party involved in the process was free from blame: “The Army had truckled, the White House had been silent, the Senate had cowered, the press printed more and more, the victims were offered up, the peeps of protest were very small until near the end.” The hero of the film was not Joseph Welch, but the camera.⁶⁹ De Antonio cited John Cage and other artists in his circle, including Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, as important influences in the making of Point of Order.⁷⁰ He thought of the film as a collage rather than a documentary.⁷¹ Like his artist friends, he drew upon found materials, ephemera, and “tacky” materials, what elsewhere he described as “the detritus of modern industrial society.”⁷² However cheap-looking, this footage cost De Antonio more than he had hoped to pay. CBS reluctantly agreed to license the footage of the hearings to De Antonio but charged the filmmaker the exorbitant fee of fifty thousand dollars plus half of the profits from the film in perpetuity. This experience convinced De Antonio that 52

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the networks had too much control over historically significant material that should rightfully belong to the public record. While making Rush to Judgment, he confronted what he described as “a great media crime,” worse than the control CBS had exercised through price gauging.⁷³ Seeking footage of witnesses whose testimony had been omitted by the Warren Commission, he and Lane screened six hours of outtakes from the CBS news special November nd and the Warren Report. Lane recounts that he and De Antonio were astonished by what they discovered in the network archive: “What we saw, in essence, was a whole series of events where eyewitnesses interviewed by CBS were making statements which were completely contrary to what CBS put on air.”⁷⁴ He describes instances where a witness would answer a question one way, the interviewer would interrupt and ask the question again, and so on, until the response aligned with the view of events the producers wanted to present. Eager to make use of contradictory eyewitness accounts languishing in the archive, De Antonio requested access to the material, only to be told it was no longer for sale, and indeed was now suddenly slated to be destroyed.⁷⁵ Ultimately, De Antonio completed Rush to Judgment with footage scavenged from other sources, including Visnews (a news agency based in London), the Sherman Grinberg Film Library, and the local ABC affiliate in Dallas, WFAA-TV.⁷⁶ In addition to compiling relevant stock footage, De Antonio filmed interviews with witnesses he tracked down himself, with assistance from Lane and a small crew. Rush to Judgment presents this material in a form that Thomas Waugh describes as a “documentdossier.”⁷⁷ The film juxtaposes official statements drawn from broadcast sources with testimony offered by people De Antonio describes as ordinary “working class Texans” (fig. .). Their plainspoken observations often directly and pointedly contradict claims made by police and other state officials. The film asks viewers to consider how and why these voices have been excluded from the official historical record, and its unvarnished look lends further credibility to their testimonies. De Antonio described the film’s style as “art brut.” ⁷⁸ Another commentator put it this way: “Rush to Judgment looks as plain as a typed sheet of paper.”⁷⁹ In style as well as substance, the film asserts its status as documentary evidence. The interviews that appear in Rush to Judgment mimic the conventional format of the CBS news special November nd and the Warren Report. However, unlike his counterparts at the television network, De  Antonio allows the witnesses to speak at length. He leaves in many awkward pauses and fleeting glances at the camera that would otherwise make this material unsuitable for broadcast. In this way, Rush to Judgment Network Media/TV Nation


. Emile de Antonio, Rush to Judgment,  (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,

 minutes. Courtesy the Estate of Emile de Antonio © , and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

recreates the outtakes that he could not retrieve from the CBS archives. At times, the awkwardness of the interviews betrays the obvious discomfort of an interviewee on camera. Some of the witnesses admitted that, after the release of the Warren Commission’s findings, they no longer trusted their own memories of the event. The camera lingers long enough during these sequences to register the pressure these witnesses feel to bring their perceptions into line with the official view. The interviews in Rush to Judgment, while edited sparingly, violate broadcasting conventions that value brevity and clarity above all. In a note on the film’s style included in the press kit for the film, De Antonio explains his approach: “The editing makes it clear that the film is edited, that it is not a series of long takes. Any optical house can do that. The repetitions are intentional.” The aim of the film, he insists, is to reveal the character of the witnesses, which “can be judged only in depth.”⁸⁰ Rush to Judgment also examines the credibility of the officials who presented the case against Oswald to the American public on television. Title cards introduce each section of the film, another convention borrowed from the CBS news report. In a segment entitled “Jack Ruby and the Dallas Police,” De Antonio subjects contradictory statements by police to care54

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ful scrutiny. Jesse Curry, the Dallas police chief, tells reporters, “We have not been able to find any one of our men who saw and recognized Ruby at the time of this transfer.” This clip is immediately followed by televised interviews with officers who were present when Oswald was shot, who recount identifying Ruby as soon as he emerged out of the crowd. Elsewhere the film draws out contradictions through crosscutting between official statements and extended interviews conducted by Lane and De  Antonio. One witness, Nancy Hamilton, an employee of a nightclub owned by Ruby, estimates that her boss knew at least half of the officers on the force. De Antonio inserts footage of Curry refuting her claim, but then cuts back to Hamilton, allowing her to explain how Ruby often bragged about his police connections and how the police, treated lavishly in his clubs, looked the other way when he broke the law. In some cases, key witnesses refer to threats they have received warning them not to speak publicly. Acquilla Clemons, a witness to the killing of Officer J. D. Tippit shortly after Kennedy’s assassination, explains that she saw two armed men running from the scene, contradicting the Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald shot the officer alone. Clemons was never asked to testify before the commission, which claimed she had been impossible to locate. The film raises doubts about this claim: Clemons describes a visit shortly after the shooting from a man she took to be a police officer, who warned her she “might get hurt” if she ever spoke publicly about what she saw that day.⁸¹ During a segment entitled “Some Witnesses May Never Testify,” Penn Jones Jr., a publisher conducting an independent inquiry into the assassination, recounts details surrounding the mysterious deaths of eight additional people closely linked to the investigation. Rush to Judgment makes no attempt to explain these occurrences. Facts are presented in the style of a legal defense, simply to raise questions left unanswered by the prosecution. For De Antonio, the aim of the film was not to prove Oswald’s innocence but, rather, to expose the inaccuracies and omissions of the Warren Report.⁸² While many of the witnesses he interviews were never called before the commission, others describe how their testimony was taken out of context or rendered incomplete in its final report.⁸³ Rush to Judgment indicts television broadcasters for their complicity in this miscarriage of justice.⁸⁴ The channeled image appears as the formal suggestion of looped repetition in Rush to Judgment. The film opens with footage of Dallas district attorney Henry Wade carefully spelling out the name of the accused for reporters: “The full name is Lee . . . Harvey . . . Oswald: O-S-W-A-L-D” (fig. .). This clip is followed by a quick montage of Oswald in police cusNetwork Media/TV Nation


. Emile de Antonio, Rush to Judgment,  (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,

 minutes. Courtesy the Estate of Emile de Antonio © , and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

tody, footage that also appears in television assassination. The opening sequence of Rush to Judgment introduces Oswald as a suspect, as it might in any conventional television documentary or news special. As the film develops, statements by Wade and other officials are systematically called into question by way of evidence gathered by the filmmakers. The final shot returns to the footage of Wade that opens the film. As Randolph Lewis observes, “This time ‘O-S-W-A-L-D’ takes on a different significance than the benign clarification it seemed at first.”⁸⁵ As the film nears its conclusion, facts that had previously appeared cut-and-dried are now shaded by ambiguity and doubt. Although Rush to Judgment was released as a feature-length documentary for theatrical viewing, the repetition of the first and last shot sets up the structural possibility of a film that plays like the looped footage in television assassination, beginning again where it ends.⁸⁶ Like Conner, De Antonio invites viewers to look anew at the footage that appears in his work. Repetition in this case functions as a rhetorical device, a closing statement for the defense that insists every official utterance warrants careful reexamination. By contrast, Conner is less interested in the evidentiary status of images than in the way their repetition serves as a means 56

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to control or limit their significance. television assassination is not a call to reexamine the facts of Oswald’s case. Instead, it asks how the “perpetual movement” of his image has been deployed to claim authority over its meaning. Despite these differences in approach and style, Conner and De Antonio share one significant strategy: both performatively distort formal conventions borrowed from the broadcasting sources they critique. While Conner exaggerates the slow-motion replays used to dissect footage of Oswald’s shooting, De Antonio allows witnesses to speak at length in interviews that violate broadcast standards of concision. Both filmmakers demonstrate how television broadcasters work to shore up “every element of the existing structure of authority,” but also how their methods can be redeployed to challenge that authority. Employing formal strategies of channeling that emphasize how the networks selectively repeat or repress certain images, both demonstrate the importance of managing affect alongside efforts to control information. The awkward and discomforting interviews in Rush to Judgment undermine the reassuring explanation of the Warren Report offered by network newsmen like Cronkite and Rather. Similarly, in report, jarring shifts in tone disrupt the solemnity of the networks’ carefully orchestrated funeral coverage, and with it the promise of a seamless restoration of order. De Antonio and Conner each confront the ongoing struggle over who defines the news: “the people in positions of power or the people in the streets.” In report, the American media-complex faces off against unruly crowds who pose a challenge to the status quo. While scenes of violence offer a series of spectacular distractions, other moments in the film, such as the footage of protesters marching for civil rights, remind viewers how television can be deployed to upend the given order.⁸⁷ Although Conner draws heavily upon the experience of watching television, his work is made to be screened “off air,” so to speak, in theatrical and gallery settings, as underscored by the severed power cord of the television set in television assassination. Accordingly, he figures the relationship between nation and network in terms of a cultural imaginary that blurs the distinction between technology and politics. De Antonio, by contrast, treats the relationship between network and nation as something altogether more concrete, rooted in the question of how the airwaves are administered as a public good. In  he insisted ardently to one interviewer, “Three networks control most of our air, but it’s our air, the air of the American people.”⁸⁸ Rush to Judgment was released for theatrical distribution in  but also made it to the small screen that year, although not in the United States, Network Media/TV Nation


as the filmmaker might have hoped. British viewers had the opportunity to watch the film on the BBC- as part of a special four-and-a-half-hour broadcast on January , . Over the course of that evening, Rush to Judgment was screened in multiple segments, with time set aside for debate among a panel of experts, including De Antonio’s collaborator, Mark Lane, as the lone dissenter. Afterward, Lane complained to the London press that the show had been “rigged.” He claimed that the other panelists had been given a script ahead of time, while he had little opportunity to defend his views on-air.⁸⁹ The callers who lit up the BBC’s switchboard in response to the program overwhelmingly agreed with Lane’s criticisms. More importantly, despite every effort to the contrary, the call logs show that most of these viewers came away from the program with grave doubts about the validity of the Warren Report.⁹⁰ Although the dilemma of what to do with this doubt is never explicitly addressed by Rush to Judgment, elsewhere the question of how to channel individual dissent into collective action was already being taken up by artists and radical filmmakers opposed to the Vietnam War.


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2 Movement Media/War on Television

In January  the artist Carolee Schneemann transformed the interior of the Martinique, an off-Broadway theater at the corner of nd Street and Broadway, into an immersive space for a happening-like event entitled Snows (). The stage was dominated by a large wooden frame built from two-by-fours, supporting a grid of plastic bags filled with colored water, calling to mind the banks of monitors one might encounter in a television studio or newsroom. Described by the artist as a giant “water-lens,” this decidedly low-tech edifice occupied the center of a complexly staged production, which involved live performers, moving images, flickering strobe lights, and a sensor-driven feedback system.¹ Other aspects of Snows conflated bodily interior and snowy exterior. Artificial white tree branches rescued from a department store’s discarded Christmas display encircled the stage (fig. .). Heaps of aluminum foil and packing foam mimicked drifts of freshly fallen snow. The audience was directed to enter the space through a backstage door and forced to squeeze through two “floor-to-ceiling foam rubber ‘mouths.’”² To get to their seats, they had to scramble in the dark over long planks of wood extended from the stage to the rear of the space. Before the show even began, audience members were thus made powerfully aware of their own bodily vulnerability. During the performance, the impression of entering into a highly embodied space of media production was further reinforced by the presence of figures, described in the score as “technicians,”

. Carolee Schneemann, Snows, . Artwork ©  Carolee Schneemann

Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York. Photograph by Peter Moore, ©  Barbara Moore. Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

who occupied the edge of the stage projecting old newsreels and diary film footage onto the walls of the theater and the bodies of the performers from swivel-mounted projectors.³ Schneemann produced Snows as part of a citywide antiwar protest called the Week of Angry Arts. The artist-organized “festival of dissent” ran from January  through February , , and involved some five hundred artists, filmmakers, dancers, musicians, and poets in more than forty performances and events.⁴ Snows grew directly out of Schneemann’s experience of looking at images made, in her words, “as people burnt, bled, fled, [and] were tortured,” images largely unseen on television. She described it as a work built out of “anger, outrage, fury and sorrow,” a response to a war reaching Americans only at a “great remove.”⁵ Despite ubiquitous coverage of the Vietnam War on television, or perhaps as its direct result, the conflict appeared distant—visible, yet hard to actually see. Snows challenges the way television made the war visible, imagining vision at a distance transformed by embodied forms of engagement and response. Schneemann called her unique form of movement-based multimedia performance “kinetic theater.” Movement in Snows animates what the art60

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ist referred to as “possibilities” rooted in the development of physical relations between performers. In a series of “notations” published in , she writes: All motion as a seed to emotion/all action, interaction beginning with the body. That’s what a corps should be. Turned on to each other, to the possibilities we will encounter, concretize in our physical relations and this relation reaching from each other into the materials of the environment.⁶

Reaching from embodied relations “into the materials of the environment,” including news images alongside other scavenged elements, Schneemann imagined how the war in Vietnam might be mediated differently, and consequently opposed through collective action. The Vietnam War and the mass protests it inspired played a significant role in testing network television’s newly established legitimacy as a media institution. Whereas the assassination of President Kennedy had thrust commercial television into the center of a national crisis unexpectedly, ongoing coverage of the Vietnam War offered a wholly different set of conditions for appropriating and contesting televisual forms and authority, exploited by artists and activist filmmakers alike. As American military operations in Vietnam escalated and antiwar protest intensified, these conditions precipitated conflicts around protest tactics and related forms of antiestablishment media production. This chapter addresses those conflicts by looking closely at two film experiments that bookend : Schneemann’s Snows and the collectively produced radical newsreel No Game (), shot during a mass demonstration in Washington, DC, organized under the slogan “From Dissent to Resistance.” Though produced during different phases of the antiwar movement, both works began with the recognition that ending the war would require radically disrupting its routine appearance on television, while at the same time building alternative systems of media production and distribution. Critique alone would not be adequate; new media forms had to be invented. The process of developing these new forms of political media required imagining media politics anew, as something distinct from a politics predicated on the alliance between commercial media networks and the state, as discussed in the previous chapter. Snows arrived onstage as disagreements about confrontational protest tactics were emerging within the antiwar movement. These disputes came to a head during a mass demonstration in Washington, DC, on October , . The event led directly to the formation of the radical film collective Movement Media/War on Television


Newsreel in December and the release of its short film No Game in early .⁷ No Game was made in response to television coverage of the protest that downplayed the government’s use of excessive force against the marchers gathered outside the Pentagon. At the climax of the film, a tense standoff between protesters and US marshals wielding batons erupts into violence. Suddenly, scenes from Vietnam suspend the confrontation. Images of fleeing villagers and captured Viet Cong soldiers come into view as if directly channeled by the violence of the protest, signaling the urgency of ending the war. Newsreel’s No Game amplified calls for increased militancy within the antiwar movement, inaugurating a new phase of collective, radical filmmaking in the United States defined by its opposition to the media establishment. Like Snows, the film incorporates found news images while also breaking from the conventions governing the coverage of the war on television. This chapter looks closely at the way each work brings scenes from Vietnam into view. While both works pose a challenge to the highly codified mediation of the war on television, each adopts channeling as a media form and conceptual framework along different lines, differences that, I argue, are rooted in distinct approaches to confrontation as a political praxis. Schneemann employs embodied conflict to increase sensory awareness and develop “creative inter-relations” within a media-saturated environment. Newsreel, by contrast, uses conflict to agitate and escalate political confrontation both physically and discursively. Their work, however, relies on a model of action and reaction that Schneemann’s emphasis on process refuses to take for granted. Motion Pictures: Image as Process In  Schneemann reflected on the relationship between the development of her kinetic theater, or what she called “a theatre of images,” and forms of protest to come: Painters’ visions were the origin of a theatre of images. Happenings made the bridge from painting to multi-media by a unique fusion (and confusion) of script, score, notation, rehearsals, anti-rehearsals, and free spontaneous interactions. For most of us certain formal parameters were to be thrown open, and the risk, unpredictability, and incorporation of random factors presaged burgeoning forms of social protest in our volatile culture.⁸

Schneemann’s remarks emphasize the use of a premeditated score and simultaneous embrace of risk or contingency. Her approach to chance 62

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operations differed, however, from that of many of her contemporaries, including Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, members of Fluxus, and the Judson Dance Theater, all figures with whom Schneemann had close, if sometimes fraught relationships.⁹ As the Vietnam War became the focus of Snows, her skepticism with regard to chance operations took on greater significance, signaling an important departure from the “neutral” or “cool” sensibility associated with the work of many of her peers. It goes without saying that Schneemann was not the only artist of her generation to protest the Vietnam War and have that experience, in turn, transform her work. Her participation in the Week of Angry Arts put her into close contact with many other politically minded artists, including (to name only a few of the more than five hundred artists who participated in the event) May Stevens, Nancy Spero, Mark di Suvero, Nancy Graves, Rudolf Baranik, and Leon Golub.¹⁰ Her work stands out among the work of her peers, not only for the way it engages with images of war, but also for the way it reimagines the mediation of these images as a collective and embodied process. Snows departs in significant ways from the artist’s earlier “kinetic theater” events. Before turning to a close analysis of Snows, I want to briefly discuss the development of Schneemann’s kinetic theater within the context of the Judson Dance Theater. Schneemann began exploring collective forms of group movement in what she called “landscape events” while completing an MFA in painting at the University of Illinois in .¹¹ The following year she returned to New York City, where she had lived before attending graduate school. Through the composer James Tenney, her partner at the time, she met Billy Klüver, who worked with Tenney at Bell Labs and would go on to found Experiments in Art and Technology with Robert Rauschenberg in . Klüver introduced Schneemann to Claes Oldenburg, who invited her to participate in his happening Store Days in February .¹² Later that year, after contributing a work to an evening of performances staged at the Living Theater, she was invited by Yvonne Rainer and Arlene Rothlein to join the group that would become the Judson Dance Theater. Schneemann presented a number of performances with the group between  and .¹³ In a note from , she distinguished her approach to composition from the cool reserve that pervaded her milieu at the time—what she called the “the Fro-Zen” sensibility, a phrase that obliquely referenced the influence of John Cage within this circle of dancers and artists.¹⁴ Judson Dance Theater was founded by dancers participating in a composition workshop offered between  and  by Judith and Robert Ellis Dunn.¹⁵ At the time, Judith was a dancer with Merce Cunningham’s Movement Media/War on Television


company and Robert was working as its accompanist. He had studied composition with Cage at the New School for Social Research alongside other artists later associated with happenings, including Kaprow, George Brecht, and Dick Higgins. The Dunns’ classes, held in Cunningham’s studio, were structured around assignments inspired by Cage’s graphic scores, with Zen Buddhism as a key influence.¹⁶ The workshops built on compositional principles explored in Cage’s Untitled Event of  and developed by Cunningham’s introduction of chance operations into his choreography.¹⁷ Cage and Cunningham created works where discrete elements or actions were related by way of arbitrarily determined juxtapositions, rather than any internal logic of association. This mode of composition was concerned with what Cunningham described as “something being exactly what it is in its time and place, and not in its having actual or symbolic reference to other things.”¹⁸ Elaine Summers’s The Daily Wake (), also known as Newspaper Dance, serves as a useful touchstone for the work coming out of the Dunns’ workshops, guided by the chance operations embraced by Cage and Cunningham.¹⁹ Summers developed the score based on the newspaper format.²⁰ As Sally Banes explains, the work referenced the heterogeneity of images and text that appeared in a random issue of the Daily News. It included discrete movements and gestures based on the day’s photographs: people doing the twist, swimmers, an umpire, soldiers, a handshake, a Rockefeller, a bride, graduation, a Pantino advertisement.²¹ The action unfolded in a spatial arrangement “that corresponded graphically to a newspaper layout design.” As Ana Janevski observes, “No performer stood out, no hierarchy distinguished background from foreground. In The Daily Wake, the crowded stage was itself a kind of achievement, the mobilization and organization of autonomous bodies in a cooperative situation a sign of those values that would soon emerge as central to the Judson ethos.”²² For Schneemann, who came to dance by way of painting, composing movement with the aid of chance operations often produced disappointing results, failing to provide what she called “evidence of the senses.” In her view, chance operations “so corralled” aesthetic production that they risked becoming “a closing in.”²³ As an alternative, she developed ways of courting chance through structured but spontaneous interactions between performers and the everyday materials she often incorporated into her work. In rehearsals, Schneemann engaged her performers in “exercises of aggression and assertion” in order to undo learned forms of coordination.²⁴ Through these exercises, she sought to increase the spontaneous responsiveness of her performers to one another and the environment in 64

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which they moved.²⁵ Schneemann described her work to Gene Youngblood as the creation of a “sensory arena” where this process could unfold. She was concerned, she said, with “what we’re able to feel, how much the audience is able to open up, be moved and touched.”²⁶ Elsewhere she clarified what was at stake in this process: “When you shift the predictable and perceptual base, you begin to unlock structures in the social and political spheres as well.”²⁷ Before staging Snows, Schneemann’s work explored embodied forms of interaction and interdependence that were both highly visible and immediately visceral. In Newspaper Event, performed as part of the third Judson Dance Theater concert in January , each performer played a role corresponding to a different part of the body. Moving together within a large pile of crumpled newspapers, they created a disarticulated, but nonetheless collective, bodily whole.²⁸ Schneemann described Newspaper Event as a “first attempt” at using a loose performance score to guide “contact and improvisation” that would “activate neglected thresholds of awareness”: Individuals would create their own activity and its momentum, while responding to and incorporating the “intrusions” and unexpected conjunctions with others. Any particularized area of focus could be absorbed directly into a collective unity. There was no underlying basis of abstract structure or rule, no pre-determined movement patterns. Unpredictability permitted the audience to respond exactly as and when we were responding.²⁹

For Schneemann, the “crucial deviation from existing performance investigations” among her peers in the Judson Dance Theater had to do with “introducing risk, uncertainty—reliance on reactions and interactions which could be immediate, impulsive, and sensitive.” The emphasis was on “touch, contact, tactile materials, shocks—boundaries of self and group to be meshed and mutually evolving.” Newspaper Event departed radically from the spatial model explored in The Daily Wake, a work in which each pose drawn from a photographic source appeared as separate and unto itself, yielding a performance space that functioned as an analog for the printed page. By contrast, as Deborah Hay, a Judson dancer who worked closely with Schneemann and appeared in Newspaper Event in the role of the “Shoulders/Arms,” recalled, “Being in Carolee’s pieces meant you personally got to touch and be touched by others. That did not happen in anyone else’s dances.”³⁰ Schneemann continued to explore the spontaneous coordination of Movement Media/War on Television


bodily contact in Water Light/Water Needle (), which took place in March  at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, where performers moved along a series of high and low ropes rigged carefully between two interior columns.³¹ During the two-hour performance, which like Snows was divided into a series of discrete sequences, the performers improvised ways to maneuver around one another on the ropes. The score directs them to “impinge on each other’s movements” in these encounters, but not to dramatize them as antagonistic. “There is never a struggle; the balance of each on the ropes regulates the possible combinations,” Schneemann stated in her notes. “We are a unitary system; your own energy and the position of the ropes expands, vibrates, and extends each motion.”³² The circulation of bodies in Water Light/Water Needle is entirely self-regulating. Movement at one spot on the ropes requires other performers elsewhere to adjust their position and balance. The ropes create a simple feedback mechanism that offers a utopian model of direct communication and relationality that contrasts sharply with the visual and aural noise that pervades Snows. In an interview published in , Schneemann described the anesthetizing effects of everyday media saturation: “We get all this information and there’s absolutely no way to react. So, we’re trapped with all these fears of real impotence.”³³ As result, she observed, “What people really want is tactile confirmation, to be in touch with their physicality, to be able to communicate, and to grow, to touch one another and be touched.” If Water Light/Water Needle conjures an image of action where every movement, every experience leads to a perceptible reaction, then Snows asks what it feels like to inhabit a media environment where experiences of immediacy and direct intervention seem foreclosed, in other words, where images of the war in Vietnam appear only at “a great remove.” Water Light/Water Needle emphasizes immediate and visceral forms of physical interaction. The relationships that develop in Snows are harder to concretize and bring into view; they are also more antagonistic than the interactions featured in earlier performances. Snows does not presume a collective unity given in advance. Instead, it asks how relationships are formed and made to appear within the sensory environment in which the work unfolds over time. Importantly, Snows depicts the noise that pervades this media-saturated environment as affective rather than informational. Channeling here has as much to do with images as with the affective responses they generate. Rather than mimicking the way affects are typically managed or channeled by network broadcasters, Snows proposes an alternative process of mobilizing affect as central to the development of the sensory awareness required by the collective action of antiwar protest. 66

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With Snows, Schneemann’s antipathy toward the aesthetic of cool reserve prevalent among her peers was further reinforced by her conviction that art made to protest the war must do something other than leave audiences, in her words, “undisturbed [and] confirmed in all expectations.”³⁴ The title associates cool disaffection with news reports of war that have become as routine as weather forecasts. The Vietnam War was the single most important ongoing news story during the period in which the major broadcast networks were working to establish television as a legitimate form of news media. By  all three networks had extended the nightly news format from fifteen to thirty minutes. Coverage of the war became a regular feature of these expanded programs. Typically, newscasters presented a battlefield roundup based on the military’s daily press briefing, followed by an update from Washington on issues of policy or a story detailing some aspect of operations in the field. Much of this coverage highlighted advances in military technology or personalized the experiences of troops on the ground. Historical context and political analysis were rarely discussed; the focus was on presenting easily grasped factual data, such as weekly casualty figures or brief glimpses of soldiers in action.³⁵ Reviewing network television coverage of the war in October , critic Michael Arlen quipped that viewers were likely to “know more about the ‘weather picture’ over major metropolitan areas than they could ever wish to know, and a good deal less about Vietnam than might be useful.”³⁶ He criticized the networks for their willingness to cater to “a popular democracy’s insistent desire” to view the war “in emotional terms (our guys against their guys).” News reports organized around concise, sympathetic accounts of American troops in the field provided what he described as “an excessively simple, emotional, and military oriented view” of the conflict.³⁷ Arlen’s observations suggest that the banality of the war’s appearance on television did not derive from an absence of emotional solicitation, but rather from the predictability of these appeals. Chance operations offered one means for diminishing the power of the emotional appeals issued by popular culture, which during the Vietnam War were being ramped up to garner the public’s support for an otherwise confusing and distant conflict.³⁸ As protests grew increasingly urgent with the escalation of bombing campaigns and the growing number of troop deployments, some participants in the antiwar movement sought to challenge positive appeals to patriotism with powerfully negative counterappeals. By  images of injured Vietnamese civilians had begun to appear in newspapers and illustrated magazines such as Life, in stories concerned with “the blunt reality of the war in Vietnam,” as one magazine Movement Media/War on Television


cover announced.³⁹ Though this coverage offered a more graphic depiction of the war than the reports appearing on network television, it also portrayed American troops sympathetically, as good guys doing their best under difficult circumstances. Exploiting the growing proliferation of disturbing images of the war circulated in these popular print media sources, protesters began to appropriate and recontextualize the images. Taken out of context, they offered a disturbing counterpoint to the largely supportive coverage of the war on the nightly news.⁴⁰ By  images of war atrocities in Vietnam were also appearing in newly established underground newspapers and publications aligned with the New Left, illustrating stories with an explicitly antiwar bent. These articles focused on the experiences of Vietnamese civilians or reports of human rights violations rather than on the daily operations carried out by American soldiers. During the Week of Angry Arts, one such article became an important source of visual material for the artists participating in the protest. That week photographs of Vietnamese villagers scarred by napalm and shrapnel appeared on posters plastered all over the city, as slides projected during a poetry reading at NYU, and as blown-up enlargements on the side of “a poet’s caravan,” a flatbed truck bringing antiwar poetry and performance out into the street.⁴¹ The poets distributed twelve thousand copies of a pamphlet featuring a child suffering from napalm burns on its cover. It identified the source of the image as an article by William F. Pepper entitled “The Children of Vietnam,” published in the January  issue of the New Left magazine Ramparts.⁴² Pepper’s essay offered a firsthand account of the devastating impact of America’s massive bombing campaigns on Vietnam’s civilian population. The essay is remembered today for influencing Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly denounce America’s involvement in Vietnam.⁴³ In addition to documenting the dire conditions inside hospitals overrun with patients needing urgent care, Pepper’s essay includes many large color images of everyday life among displaced Vietnamese citizens. The most graphic images of bodily injury appear as small black-and-white photographs at the margins of the page (plate ). These few extremely graphic images were the ones most often reproduced, blown up, and projected during the Week of Angry Arts. Not everyone who participated in the Week of Angry Arts endorsed the use of images depicting scarred and burned Vietnamese villagers to express dissent against the war. A full-day event entitled “An Act of Respect for the Vietnamese People,” for example, implicitly challenged the impulse to let these photographs speak for themselves. Musicians played Vietnamese music. Susan Sontag read Buddhist texts. There were presen68

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tations about Vietnamese rivers, villages, food, and families. “Information not emotion was to be the medium,” concluded one reporter after interviewing the event’s organizers.⁴⁴ Though Snows departed from the tactics of confrontation that “An Act of Respect for the Vietnamese People” sought to offset, it also betrayed uncertainty about the countervailing use of information as a “medium.”⁴⁵ Unwilling to excise emotion altogether from protests against the war, Schneemann asked instead how it might be enlisted to create, as she put it, “a situation in which people’s energies could be radicalized so they could become aware of the political nexus around them.”⁴⁶ Schneemann described the structure of Snows as a performance “stretched out in time between five films, whose related content triggered the juxtapositions of a winter environment and Vietnam atrocities.”⁴⁷ During the performance, grainy footage of skiers from two World War II–era newsreels spilled onto the walls of the theater, and a color  mm diary film shot in the wintery weeks leading up to the performance was projected directly onto the bodies of the performers. The performance opened with all six members of the group, including Schneemann herself, gathered onstage to watch a third found newsreel, this one from , which the artist tinted red and called Red News (). It depicts a series of catastrophes—“a ship exploding, a sequence of tiny figures massed in a ‘riot,’  .  .  . tiny figures of ‘red’ Chinese being shot by nationalist guards”—which elsewhere the artist described as “one little horrific element after another.”⁴⁸ For the majority of the hour-and-a-half-long performance, Schneemann suspended direct reference to Vietnam. Images of the war appeared only at the end of the performance, during the projection of Viet-Flakes (–), a short film by Schneemann that synthesizes the two different film genres screened earlier in the performance: found newsreel and diary film. In Viet-Flakes Schneemann treats found news material with the intimacy of a personal recording. The film functions as what the artist called “the heart and core” of Snows.⁴⁹ It revolves around a collection of photographs Schneemann gathered from various news sources over the course of several years, as she sought information about the war not widely reported on the nightly news. She made the film with a borrowed Bolex camera and cheap magnifying lenses. Scenes of the war in Vietnam come in and out of focus as Schneemann moves her camera over the surface of the photographs. The film is animated by the artist’s frustrated urge to bring a distant war closer by way of its representation on-screen.⁵⁰ If Snows begins with a conventional experience of watching the news, represented by the viewing of “one little horrific element after another” in Red News, it culMovement Media/War on Television


minates with Viet-Flakes, a film that imagines how news might be transmitted and received differently. Snows reveals the limitations of relying on images depicting the atrocities of war to solicit a moral response rooted in shock. It reimagines the channeling of broadcast signals as a process of routing vision through the body, as part of a larger system of encounters that engage, rather than neutralize, emotionally charged responses. The close reading of the work that follows details the different components of that system and the encounters it sought to create. Action in Snows is organized into sequences built around exercises or operations that stress reciprocity and exchange between performers, often in the guise of aggressive physical confrontation. These highly physical and embodied exchanges lay the groundwork for the attentiveness to movement and gesture that comes to the fore in Viet-Flakes. Early on, the six performers—three men, three women—pair off, each slowly circling their partner, lunging forward or giving in to the attack. Their movements offer a glimpse of focused action and attentive reaction. These gestures are not choreographed in the formal sense. Instead, they emphasize what Schneemann describes as “organic necessity arising spontaneously in the unique circumstances of the work.”⁵¹ As she recounts in an interview, “All the exercises had to do with very subtle but exacting explorations of power and fear.” The principle “is that you’re always responsible for each other’s fall, so you have to be completely identified with the impulse by which you are going to destabilize your partner, and your partner has to trust that, to yield enough to fall, so that you don’t hurt each other by stiffening up. It takes a lot of practice.”⁵² Through repetition in rehearsal, the performers, most of whom (including Schneemann) were not professionally trained as dancers, slowly strengthened their responsiveness to one another’s movements.⁵³ In a statement titled “Image as Process,” Schneemann discussed working with nonprofessional performers as a way of courting “unpredictable” outcomes: “I work with untrained people and various waste materials to realize images, which range from the banal to the fantastic—images which dislocate, disassociate, compound and engage our senses to expand into unknown and unpredictable relationships.”⁵⁴ Snows courts chance as a means for disrupting the predictability of the war’s appearance on television, without eliminating emotion from the “responsive attentiveness” it solicits in the process.⁵⁵ Collisions that emphasize the weight and kinetic force of bodies coming into contact at the beginning of the performance give way to actions that involve more deliberate and slowly executed forms of mutual manipulation 70

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. Carolee Schneemann, Snows, . Photograph by Alec Sobelewski. Courtesy

of the artist. ©  Carolee Schneemann Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York.

as Snows unfolds. The paired performers cover each other’s faces in white grease paint and take turns forming each other’s facial expressions, as if molding them out of clay (fig. .).⁵⁶ Here, instead of movement rooted in “organic necessity,” the performers engage in encounters that are highly theatrical, all artifice. The score indicates that as they shape each other’s faces, the performers are to take on “whatever aspect is pushed and prodded into the musculature,” a process described by Schneemann as “a transformation inducing a corresponding but unpredictable emotion.”⁵⁷ Rather than express an organic, essential inner reality, as in the expressionist tradition of dance, these physical manipulations forcefully generate and give rise to a series of unexpected and random emotional intensities. As the performers manipulate one another’s faces, strobe lights flash through a staccato series of freeze frames, a snapshot effect enhanced by the use of the white face paint, which functions as a kind of light-sensitive emulsion. Attention then shifts to the body as the locus of expressivity, as the performers begin to “sculpt” one another into random, unreadable poses. This action unfolds under a softer play of colored lights, controlled, Movement Media/War on Television


unbeknownst to the audience, by a switching system integrating signals from contact microphones wired to some of the seats in the theater.⁵⁸ When someone sitting in one of these seats shifted their weight, the electronic signal from the microphone triggered the lights, which then served as a cue for a shift of action onstage. Movement thus becomes a way of registering the responsiveness of the audience to the action taking place onstage. The system introduces additional randomness into the performance, creating a feedback loop in which the audiences’ responses to the work in real time directly impact the way it unfolds. In an essay on the making of Snows, Schneemann recalls, “I knew I wanted the audience to somehow control the performance cuing systems, and I was obsessed with the contradictions I wanted the work to effect.”⁵⁹ Elsewhere she explains the use of technology as another way to introduce chance into the work: “I wanted to have these systems of interference, so that even after I could make the most complex, determined sequences of projections  .  .  . there could be some system to interrupt them so that the performers or participants would also be constantly off-guard.”⁶⁰ Schneemann’s use of technology to generate “systems of interference” yields a form of involuntary and automated participation at odds with the learned forms of trusting collaboration and interaction that appear elsewhere in the work. At the same time, it proposes a form of technological mediation between body and eye, movement and vision, that estranges television’s identification with unidirectional transmission. As Snows draws to a conclusion, the performers begin to interact in ways that are no longer immediately reversed and repeated, as they had been earlier in the performance. For example, two performers drag a third across the stage. Then, as directed by the performance score, they “hang” this figure up with a looped length of rope (fig. .). Finally, they wrap her limbs and torso in tinfoil. Specific elements of this tableau anticipate images that will appear briefly during the projection of Viet-Flakes at the conclusion of the performance. The film’s title alludes again to snow, and to the horrific banality of the daily news—routine reports of war followed by ads for breakfast cereal. Seen in the context of Viet-Flakes, actions like dragging, hanging, and the wrapping of limbs become legible in relation to images of the war in Vietnam only belatedly, in sharp contrast to the scenes of immediate action and reaction that occur earlier in the performance. Two brief examples illustrate the process of channeling images in Snows, where bodies onstage engage in actions that resonate with images that later appear in Viet-Flakes. The first is a photograph of the corpse of a Viet Cong soldier being dragged behind an American tank, an image that 72

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. Carolee Schneemann, Snows, . Courtesy of the artist. ©  Carolee

Schneemann Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York.

echoes the act of dragging a body across the stage earlier in the performance.⁶¹ In the second, a glimpse of a man strung up by his ankles during an investigation by South Vietnamese mercenaries (plate ) recalls the onstage moment just described, in which a performer is suspended by a rope. The latter photo, taken by Sean Flynn for Paris Match, was reproduced widely enough that in May  Time ran an editorial about its role in Movement Media/War on Television


fueling antiwar sentiments. In the eyes of the magazine’s editors, the proliferation of indignant captions accompanying the photograph in various newspapers had failed to tell the story behind the interrogation reported by the photographer.⁶² Viet-Flakes does not analyze the image to discern the truthfulness of its captions. Instead, the film records the emotionally charged reaction it solicits, the desire to transform or turn away from the violence it pictures. Viet-Flakes gives visual form to the relay between body and eye that Snows enacts in real time by way of the hidden feedback system built into the staging of the work. The orientation of Schneemann’s camera in Viet-Flakes, held aloft and peering down at images laid out on a flat surface, recalls Leo Steinberg’s account of the flatbed as the “characteristic picture plane of the s—a pictorial surface whose angulation with respect to human posture is the precondition of its changed content.”⁶³ He offers Robert Rauschenberg’s canvases as the paradigmatic model of a surface that is “no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature” but instead corresponds to what he calls “operational processes.” Steinberg’s description of Rauschenberg’s photographic transfers could serve equally well as a reading of Viet-Flakes: The images—each in itself illusionistic—kept interfering with one another; intimations of spatial meaning forever canceling out to subside in a kind of optical noise. The waste and detritus of communication—like radio transmission with interference; noise and meaning on the same wavelength.⁶⁴

Rauschenberg disrupts illusionistic space within individual phototransfers by overlapping or arbitrarily reorientating them within the shared visual field of the canvas. “You can pin or project any image” against Rauschenberg’s picture plane, Steinberg asserts, “because it will not work as a glimpse of the world,” but will instead appear only “as a scrap of printed material.” This shift pertains to the “psychic address of the image” that Steinberg identifies as “its special mode of imaginative confrontation.” Schneemann’s moving camera reveals the obdurate materiality of the images she films, particularly when figure-ground distinctions dissolve into camera blur, while simultaneously dispensing with the neutrality of Rauschenberg’s canvases. Camera movement registers the distress these photographs provoke, rendering affective experience as interference or visual noise. In this sense, the film could be understood as dramatizing the shift in orientation afforded by the flatbed picture plane as a crisis, an incomplete and unreconciled process precipitated 74

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by  Schneemann’s inability or unwillingness to treat the figures impassively, as scraps of printed material, images like any other.⁶⁵ At one point during Viet-Flakes, an image of a woman lying on the ground in a hospital appears fleetingly (plate ). She holds up a hand dressed in tattered bandages while a child nurses at her breast. The photograph was originally published in the photo essay by William Pepper in Ramparts that included the graphic images of injured Vietnamese children featured prominently in a number of other events staged throughout the Week of Angry Arts. When this photograph comes into view in Viet-Flakes, a glimpse of the woman’s face is visible before the frame goes out of focus again, cutting to a series of shots that encompass more of her full, but blurred, figure. Schneemann’s camera scans over the details that provide the shock of the original picture—the ragged bandage juxtaposed with a nursing child—finally focusing on the gaze that greets the photographer’s lens. The woman in the photograph regards the camera steadily and directly, confronting anyone who might prefer to scrutinize her situation, her body, without having to acknowledge first her capacity to look back. Schneemann’s choice of this image and her method of representing it emphasize the spatial conditions of what Steinberg describes as an “imaginative confrontation,” while at the same time acknowledging the image as a photographic reproduction, rather than a “glimpse of the world.” Her work thus departs from the either/or structure of Steinberg’s account of the flatbed picture plane. She treats the photograph as both “a scrap of printed material” and an illusionistic space “where intimations of spatial meaning” persist. Holding these two possibilities in tension, she foregrounds her own distance from the scene.⁶⁶ Snows confronts the problem of looking at images of war that seem only to reinforce a disquieting sense of remoteness from the horrific experiences they document. The unsettling proximity of the camera to the surface of the photographs it records in Viet-Flakes cannot diminish the distance between the filmmaker and what she sees.⁶⁷ James Tenney’s audiotape collage provides the soundtrack for Viet-Flakes, extending the trope of channeling into sound. The composition’s jarring mix of pop singles, Vietnamese folk music, and fragments of Bach is reminiscent of radio signals coming in and out of range.⁶⁸ The title Snows hints at this possibility as well, calling to mind a television tuned to an open channel beset by static or noise, a space where something is rendered perceptible only once a signal has been properly received. Snows contrasts photographic metaphors of frozenness with what Schneemann calls “image as process,” which could be another way of namMovement Media/War on Television


ing its channeling of audiovisual signals as an embodied process. Onstage, faces covered in white paint appear masklike and contorted, frozen all at once in flashes of strobing light. Schneemann juxtaposes these moments of photographic arrest with interactions between performers that develop over time or become legible only belatedly. As the performance nears its conclusion, the figures slowly wrap one another in tinfoil. The reflective surface of the foil, like the white face paint, protects the skin from exposure to light, while simultaneously evoking the look of flesh disfigured by napalm. Rather than producing a series of isolated and unrelated frozen expressions, the act of wrapping creates a counterpart or double that opens up connections to images that later appear in Viet-Flakes, such as the woman’s bandaged hand. The conductive properties of foil transform the body into a makeshift antenna, a means for channeling these relationships and bringing them into view. Metaphors of transmission and reception occur throughout Snows. They work to estrange television from its identification with the technological extension of vision at a distance, as well as from the formal conventions of news programming, which present, in Schneemann’s words, “one little horrific element after another.” In a canvas by Rauschenberg or a composition by Cage, each element remains distinctly itself, even as it enters into associations or exchanges with other elements of the composition. Schneemann rejects this imposition of neutrality onto the space of interaction. Her work activates sensory awareness through forms of direct, sometimes confrontational contact, where neutrality cannot be guaranteed in advance. Correspondingly, the body that concerns Schneemann in Snows is a collective body, “a corps.” In an interview with Robert Coe from , Schneemann explains how her work developed “a praxis for seeing a political situation”: What would happen normally in that period is that [the audience] would absorb a sense of our sensitivity, attentiveness, and trust with one another and begin to build their own risks out of that, incorporating our work because they needed it and wanted it and because the other kind of blind, hostile, unrelational reaction wasn’t possible anymore.⁶⁹

Elsewhere she clarifies: “We were evoking not simply a ‘performance,’ but a microcosm of creative inter-relations.”⁷⁰ Looking back at the development of her kinetic theater performances from the perspective of , Schneemann recognized how the work anticipated the increasingly confrontational conditions of protest to come. 76

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Courting risk and incorporating “random factors,” Schneemann sought to activate forms of embodied perception that would enable spontaneous, coordinated movement. Soon thereafter this kind of coordinated awareness would become necessary for avoiding injury and arrest during antiwar protests marked by moments of uncertainty and sensory confusion. Though Schneemann does not emphasize the point, her work also addresses the slippage between action and image that occurs as protest tactics come to rely on the media attention they receive.⁷¹ Said another way, if Snows confronts the problem of responding to a war that appears distant and remains hard to see despite its ubiquitous presence on television, it also anticipates how images of protest will begin to appear (or fail to appear) as signals moving through the same televisual channels as the images of the war they address. In this way, her work also points toward forms of protest aimed at interrupting or circumventing channels of communication operated and controlled by commercial broadcasters. From Dissent to Resistance After the Week of Angry Arts, artist-led protests against the Vietnam War continued in cities across the country. The core organizing committee responsible for planning the program of events in New York worked to support similar weeks of protests in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Chicago. The group created programs of theater pieces and films that could travel to these other sites. They also encouraged participation in larger mobilizations and protests. In September  the organizers behind the Week of Angry Arts put out a call for artists to join a direct action at the Pentagon during a demonstration projected to bring an estimated hundred thousand protesters to the nation’s capital.⁷² As one participant recounted, “Until then, with few exceptions, antiwar protests had been fairly staid affairs—mostly orderly marches, picketing, and vigils. But the organizers of the October protest had billed it as the moment when the antiwar movement would shift ‘from dissent to resistance.’ ” On October , , thousands of protesters marched down from a mass rally at the Lincoln Memorial, across the Arlington Memorial Bridge toward the Pentagon. There they encountered the spectacle of a small crowd (Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, and the Fugs among others) engaged in a ritual exorcism of the military-industrial complex. While chants of “Out, demons, out!” rang in the background, other protesters moved to create a human blockade around the Pentagon. They had planned to engage in acts of civil disobedience through an “orderly crossing of a police line Movement Media/War on Television


by those inclined to accept arrest.”⁷³ Lines of armed troops and US marshals were waiting to greet the crowd as it arrived. Unexpectedly, a large group of protesters found their way to the steps of the Pentagon through a breech in the perimeter established by the guards. Moving from dissent to resistance became an uncertain reality when a dozen or more protesters were able to force their way into the building before being beaten back by soldiers inside. The tense standoff that followed lasted until well after dark and ended with scenes of violent repression that were not widely reported on television.⁷⁴ In December , a group of about sixty interested people, some already established filmmakers, others with little or no background in filmmaking, came together at Film-Makers’ Cinematheque to discuss gathering footage of the event so it could be documented from the perspective of the protesters. They were drawn together by what Allan Siegel, one of the attendees at the first meeting, described as a schism between their own experience of “the enormity of the event—politically, visually and emotionally,” and its limited and unsympathetic representation in the mass media. The Pentagon protest signaled a turning point in the antiwar movement. In Siegel’s words: In disenfranchised communities, in the pockets of the disillusioned on campuses, there was a growing impetus toward a massive (the full spectrum of institutions) social transformation. In cities, the full gamut of the anti-war movement was gaining momentum and was moving from the social fringes to a mass movement.⁷⁵

For Siegel and the other attendees at this meeting, the Pentagon protest demonstrated that the antiwar movement was gaining ground as a mass movement with strong ties to other calls for revolutionary change, a loosely defined political formation often referred to by its participants as the Movement.⁷⁶ The December  meeting at Film-Makers’ Cinematheque included three groups of filmmakers that had attended the Pentagon protest independently. The first was the duo Marvin Fishman and Masanori Oē, who worked together under the name Studio M. Another revolved around a production company founded by Robert Kramer, Norm Fruchter, Robert Machover, and Peter Gessner called Blue Van Films. And Siegel, who was leading a filmmaking workshop at the Free University at the time, was at the center of the third group. He recalled a “sense of euphoria and solidarity” at the meeting as everyone agreed to “make one film (quickly as 78

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it were) rather than struggling individually to make many.”⁷⁷ This conversation led to a broader discussion about establishing a film collective to autonomously document the antiwar movement and other pressing social issues neglected by the establishment press. Calling themselves The Newsreel (later simplified to Newsreel), they declared their intention “to provide an alternative to the limited and biased coverage of television news.” A month after the group’s first meeting, Jonas Mekas published excerpts of Newsreel’s collectively written mission statement in his “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice: The news that we feel is significant—any event that suggests the changes and redefinitions taking place in America today, or that underlines the necessity for such changes—has been consistently undermined and suppressed by the media. Therefore, we have formed an organization to serve the needs of the people who want to get hold of the news that is relevant to their own activity and thought.⁷⁸

Fishman volunteered to host subsequent gatherings of the collective at the storefront studio that he shared with Oē.⁷⁹ There he and Oē completed No Game, a seventeen-minute film on the Pentagon demonstration with the addition of material shot by some of the people in Siegel’s film workshop.⁸⁰ No Game brings together a chorus of voices recorded during the march and the ensuing confrontation at the Pentagon. The soundtrack is densely layered with snippets of speech and crowd noise. The film is organized around statements spoken by protesters, counterprotesters, and speakers off-screen, with the background noise of the protest audible throughout much of the film, including many chants and shouts. The use of multiple voices to narrate events as they unfold would become a hallmark of Newsreel films, which were made on the cheap and sometimes without access to synch-sound equipment. As a cinematic device it also served the group’s stated desire to make films “from within the situations they present, from the point of view of the people.”⁸¹ It is worth briefly comparing No Game with The Sixth Side of the Pentagon, a film that documents the same events, made by the French director Chris Marker in collaboration with François Reichenbach. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is narrated in Marker’s wry, inimitable style. While the sequence of events is much more clearly laid out than in No Game, the mounting tension more artfully reconstructed, Marker’s narration provides a cool, detached, though sympathetic, perspective on the action. Commenting on a performance by the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, Movement Media/War on Television


for instance, the narrator playfully compares the protest to “a huge county fair.” No Game, by contrast, sacrifices this distance to privilege the voices of people caught up in events as they are unfolding.⁸² As tensions rise in No Game, the camera is jostled wildly by confrontations between protesters and US marshals that escalate quickly. Fishman recounts: You’ll notice in No Game there’s a whole section of jumbled camera, where the violence was happening, where Masa [Oē] and I were literally in the middle of it. You have to imagine yourself with thousands of people around you. You’re hemmed in on all sides, and you have these guys coming at you with clubs swinging like crazy. That is disorienting, and that was very intentional. You feel very trapped, and what you see is a swirl of body parts, an arm, an elbow, a shoulder, a hip, you’re off balance, you’re knocked back this way, and you look up that way because you have no choice, somebody pushes you and you look back that way, then you’re pushed further and you see somebody’s shoe, like little pieces of craziness. And that was the idea for the film; it was edited with that specifically in mind: to bring about that sense of You are here, now in the middle of an uncontrollable situation.⁸³

Whereas Schneemann’s camera movement in Viet-Flakes is motivated by the desire to get as close as possible to the distant war in Vietnam by way of its representation, in No Game camera movement indexes the filmmakers’ immediate proximity to the violent clashes it records. The film provides a visceral experience of the protest as it develops unpredictably, revealing the filmmakers to be as vulnerable to the marshals’ blows as the people they are filming. At the climax of No Game, reports of tear gas break out on the soundtrack. Suddenly the audio shifts from a layered collage of shouts and statements by demonstrators to a singular piercing drone. Scenes from Vietnam depicting panicked villagers and stoic prisoners of war momentarily suspend the escalating violence of the protest (figs. . and .). Fishman explains, “We inserted stock footage of actual Vietnam War violence into the movie. We wanted people to connect the demonstration to what was going on in Vietnam directly; that was why we were protesting.” In a special issue of Film Quarterly published in , Robert Kramer went one step further. Commenting on the appearance of footage shot in the midst of confrontations with police in Newsreel films, he wrote, “Our films remind some people of battle footage: grainy, camera weaving around trying to get 80

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. Newsreel (Masanori Oē and Marvin Fishman), No Game,  (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Third World Newsreel.

. Newsreel (Masanori Oē and Marvin Fishman), No Game,  (film still),  mm, b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Third World Newsreel.

the material and still not get beaten/trapped. Well, we, and many others, are at war.”⁸⁴ His comments suggest an equivalence between protest and war that Schneemann instead treats as a complex and unequal relation. Both No Game and Snows juxtapose scenes from Vietnam with actions undertaken in opposition to the war. In Snows these relationships develop over time and in ways that acknowledge the difficulty of bringing them into view. By comparison, No Game, driven by a sense of urgency, treats the connection as self-evident and necessary. The appearance of unbidden images of Vietnam in No Game, as if channeled by the eruption of violence, heightens the urgency of the protest. At one point during this brief sequence of war footage, the soundtrack goes completely silent. The film cuts abruptly from a series of moving but blurred shots of military prisoners to a sharply focused still image of a dead soldier in a field, one arm flung back above his head. No Game pauses on this image for a beat in total silence before cutting to a shot of an American soldier unceremoniously searching the body of another dead Vietnamese soldier. With this cut, the droning of the soundtrack suddenly returns and builds toward a crescendo. The final shot of this sequence focuses on another still image, an overexposed photograph of a Vietnamese woman in closeup. Her eyes are closed, making it impossible to know if she is alive or dead. Unlike the woman whose gaze meets in the camera in Viet-Flakes, her appearance in No Game reduplicates the arresting effects of shock that Schneemann works to unsettle in Snows. The final sequence of No Game takes place after dark and depicts the immediate consequences of the decision by television newscasters to stop filming as clashes between protesters and military police intensified. The violence is hard to make out under the cover of night. A handheld camera holds relatively steady on a series of wide-angle shots of protesters being beaten with clubs. The scene is lit up by sporadic flashes of light, recalling the sequence in Snows where the performers manipulate one another’s faces into a series of frozen expressions under the strobe light. In an interview Fishman explained, “The demonstrators were being beaten in the dark, and in our movie all the activity was being illuminated by the flashbulbs of the still photographers.” Noting that the military police insisted that the bright lights of the television crews that were present be turned off before they began their attempt to disperse the protesters, he speculated, “They knew they were going to be using clubs on us, and they didn’t want it filmed.” In Snows, strobe lights generate arresting photographic effects. The work juxtaposes these sudden flashes with interactions that develop over 82

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time, what Schneemann calls the “image as process,” a process that resembles the reception of signals through a noisy channel. Snows envisions an imaginary alternative to televisual mediation that relies upon the body as well as the eye. Schneemann disrupts the familiar news format that she describes as “one little horrific element after another” through the incorporation of recursive structures and embodied feedback mechanisms. In No Game, the flashes of still news cameras index the withdrawal of television cameras from the scene. The film condemns television broadcasters for failing to cover the violent denouement of the protest and their willingness to cooperate with the state forces aggressively engaged in its repression. Whereas Snows deploys televisual metaphors that are both formal and technical, No Game engages television as an institution with the power to impact the outcome of the events it mediates. As a result, No Game brings into view concrete political and institutional operations of power that remain abstract in Snows. Read together, these two works define two necessarily interrelated ways of engaging television as a site of political and aesthetic transformation. Each work helps clarify the stakes and blind spots of the other. At the conclusion of No Game, an unidentified speaker insists, “The American people should know what is going on tonight to wake from their long sleep.” His passionate rebuke of the military establishment is followed by other protesters’ statements offering a more retrospective account of the events that played out that night. The first, clearly recorded in a studio after the event, emphasizes the disagreements between protesters who insisted on staying at the scene and those who wanted to leave because of the violence. This account of unresolved conflict between protesters cuts seamlessly to a reflection by another unidentified speaker who concludes ambivalently, “We couldn’t do anything, I realized nothing we did had any effect . . . nothing has really changed, but somehow I don’t feel that there is no hope anymore, I feel that something may happen, whether it be violent or nonviolent, there’s more of a chance now.” Fishman sums up the film’s open-ended conclusion this way: “The film shows how a nonviolent demonstration became violent. The question was how do you take care of each other, and how do you film violence and not get hurt?” After the Pentagon protest, and others like it where police used excessive force, such as a “Yip-In” at Grand Central Station in March , Schneemann also found herself grappling with the question posed by Fishman.⁸⁵ As a result, she began to experiment with adapting exercises from her kinetic theater performances into workshops designed to train protesters to respond to police aggression in ways that would minimize bodily Movement Media/War on Television


harm.⁸⁶ Later, she reflected on the conditions that motivated her to offer these workshops in published notes that darkly echo the uncertainty that arises at the conclusion of No Game: The insufficiency of our abilities to move co-operatively, instinctively to protect one another (and self ) was vividly apparent in the charge of rigid police flaks against the Grand Central Station Yippy celebrants . . . (and the Pentagon) . . . our responses were helpless, confusion, victimization . . . the cultural symptoms of frustration and anger over the Vietnam War increased as we confronted the unsuitability of our own behavior to the conditions affecting us.⁸⁷

Snows emphasizes the political importance of learning to “move cooperatively” and is concerned with instinctive responses to physical risk that can be readjusted through sensory training. In this way, Schneemann adopts and refashions modernist preoccupations with the administration of the senses (as discussed in the introduction). By contrast, No Game stresses divisions over political tactics that had to be articulated through verbal arguments made in the midst of quickly changing conditions, tactics that implicitly took the presence or absence of media coverage into account. Schneemann is interested in how her performers come to trust one another and employs exercises where risk is introduced to strengthen their awareness and responsiveness to one another. Newsreel’s early films, beginning with No Game, propose a countermodel to the “praxis for seeing a political situation” explored by Schneemann in Snows. Newsreel endorsed confrontation as a necessary means for escalating political pressure in the midst of protest, forcing people to form alliances, to take sides, even before mutual trust has been established. While Schneemann is concerned with nonverbal forms of communication, Newsreel emphasizes conflicts that are not only physical but verbal, which is to say, discursive or argumentative, seeing these two modes of engagement as continuous and interrelated. In the first year of its development as a collective, clarifying the role of confrontation in the making and distributing of its films became Newsreel’s primary focus. Newsreel debuted four short films in February , including its first film, Draft Resistance (an interview with Noam Chomsky), which showed at the New Yorker Theatre. No Game opened at the New Cinema Playhouse on a double bill with Windflowers, an experimental film about a draft dodger by Adolfas Mekas, and screened with three other Newsreel films at a well-attended midnight program at the FilmMakers’ Cinematheque.⁸⁸ In his “Movie Journal” column that month, 84

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Jonas Mekas reflected on the future of the nascent film collective. “It is too early to predict where the Newsreel will go,” he conceded, but “I am waiting for the avant-garde newsreel. I see no difference between avantgarde film and avant-garde newsreel.”⁸⁹ Though he did not participate in the group directly after the initial meeting, Mekas, a tireless champion of experimental film, offered ongoing support to Newsreel. In addition to using his column in the Village Voice to promote the radical film collective’s agenda and discuss its work, he also provided a venue for Newsreel screenings at the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque. These screenings regularly appeared listed in advertisements alongside programs featuring avant-garde and underground films.⁹⁰ At the end of February , members of Newsreel released a statement entitled “Some Ideas about Where the Newsreel Is after Two Months.” It offers a canny assessment of the potential drawbacks of the group’s initial success, raising the possibility that commercial screenings might draw energy away from its efforts to reach community organizers and activists: “We could easily get siphoned off into making films for a steadily growing theatrical demand, losing the focus of the community distribution network, which is far harder to develop.”⁹¹ In March  members of Newsreel were invited to participate in a communications forum. Published excerpts from their remarks suggest how the conversation around exhibition and distribution had developed since the prior month’s report. In addition to “normal single screen” films made to be distributed to groups organizing in communities and on campuses across the country, the members reference the possibility of staging guerrilla screenings, “whereby film and/or slides are projected from a truck on to walls, screens, buildings etc., in this way reaching people in a completely different context.”⁹² Even more surprisingly, this document raises the possibility of producing “multiscreen media-mix presentations,” described as “valuable in dealing with visual/ time relationships, in turning people on, in expanding consciousness, or in disorienting the unconscious,” terms remarkably similar to those used by Schneemann to describe her kinetic theater. The remarks appeared without attribution but were likely influenced by the experiences of those filmmakers who came to Newsreel with a background in underground and expanded cinema. Before joining Newsreel, Fishman and Oē, for example, had made experimental films together, including the short film Head Game, documenting a “be-in” staged in New York City’s Central Park in April . The duo also produced a remarkable six-channel work for CBS entitled The Great Society in  and helped to produce “media-mix” light shows for Timothy Leary’s PsycheMovement Media/War on Television


delic Celebrations.⁹³ In an interview with Scott MacDonald, Allan Siegel observed, “There’s been a tendency to create a one-dimensional picture of Newsreel, and as a result, the relationship of Newsreel to the underground film movement gets minimized. . . . You had people like Robert Kramer and Norman Fruchter, who were coming from the political filmmaking side of things. But my roots were in experimental film as were Marvin’s.”⁹⁴ Despite the group’s strong ties to the experimental and underground film community and access to venues where it would have been possible to stage “multiscreen media-mix presentations,” Newsreel’s efforts quickly consolidated around the production of single-screen films. It also outfitted a vehicle capable of staging outdoor screenings in neighborhoods across the city.⁹⁵ As one member of the group recounted, “collective members would drive into an urban neighborhood in a blue van loaded with projection equipment and show the film against a convenient wall, creating an instant inner-city drive-in theater for the masses. The hope was that these screenings would be catalysts for similar grassroots films in the communities where they were shown.”⁹⁶ Newsreel quickly established a loose network of affiliate branches in cities and college towns across the United States.⁹⁷ While it continued to seek opportunities to collaborate with preexisting organizations and community groups, the focus began to shift toward organizing screenings in informal settings (dorms, cafes, churches), including impromptu screenings in the street. New York Newsreel developed a formal policy of having a member in attendance at all screenings of their work to facilitate postscreening discussions directly. This policy was also adopted by other branches, for example, in San Francisco. Though the limitations of this kind of hit-and-run organizing were debated at the time, most members of the collective agreed that the films were more effective as a spur to political discussion than as stand-alone documents. By the end of its first year, Newsreel had arrived at a stance, summed up by Kramer in a statement published in Film Quarterly, that advocated “using film—using our voices with and after films—using our bodies with and without cameras—to provoke confrontation.” In Kramer’s view, the moment for “sweet/reasonable conversations” had passed; such interaction, he warned, was “one of the society’s modes of absorbing and disarming dissent and movement.” Underscoring the importance of movement, which in contrast to Schneemann he understood primarily as momentum, rather than as a mode of mediation in itself, he called for Newsreel to take an active role in creating, rather than simply documenting, the actions being filmed. What matters most, he concluded, is that the group “keep mov86

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ing,” that it “keep hacking out films” as quickly as possible, in whatever way it could.⁹⁸ Originally Newsreel had hoped to produce films as regularly as a commercial newsreel service and to distribute dozens of prints across the country. Though it did not ultimately maintain this regular production schedule, in its first year, Newsreel expanded the reach of its network quickly and dove headfirst into production.⁹⁹ New York Newsreel pursued a participatory approach to film production in one of its most well received and widely screened films of , Columbia Revolt.¹⁰⁰ In the spring of that year, members of the film collective joined the student protest, filming events from inside occupied administrative buildings on campus rather than from the sidelines.¹⁰¹ In addition to provoking confrontation while making Columbia Revolt, the group began, after its release, to place more emphasis on engaging audiences in a confrontational manner in postscreening discussions. The goal was to produce, in Kramer’s words, “a form of propaganda that polarizes, angers, excites, for the purpose of discussion—a way of getting at people, not by making concessions to where they are, but by showing them where you are then forcing them to deal with that, bringing out all their assumptions, their prejudices, their imperfect perceptions.”¹⁰² Bill Nichols describes this period of Newsreel’s “early militancy” as wholly consistent with “Movement attitudes at that time.” He cites the group’s embrace of “confrontation theory” as evidence of its “barometric” relationship to broader trends within the New Left.¹⁰³ In practice, this theory amounted to a negation of the aesthetic values and tools associated with the ruling class as exemplified, for example, by the professional production values of the nightly news. Newsreel was happy to make use of footage that was poorly lit, audio that was difficult to hear, and editing that was sometimes crude. The look of a Newsreel film was meant to be as jarring as the message it conveyed. Newsreel also eschewed the journalistic neutrality prized by establishment media, though often the process of arriving at a position on a given event or issue was itself taken for granted or left unexplored. Nichols speculates that early Newsreel productions tended to focus on the most violent aspects of protest: “riots, barricades, police busts, militant acts or actual fighting” because this material offered “the most effective way of crystallizing the confrontation and of showing the revolution” without having to analyze it. While postscreening discussions had the potential to direct “confrontational energy away from the filming process” toward more “detached analysis,” Newsreel’s enthusiasm for “battle footage” too often assumed what Nichols calls “a simple correspondence of form and revolutionary Movement Media/War on Television


action,” which substituted “emotional impact for analytical insight.” He compares No Game and other Newsreel films that rely heavily on footage shot in the midst of violent protests to World War II–era newsreels where the “stress is on the emotional.”¹⁰⁴ For Nichols, Newsreel’s early films fall short where they emphasize intensity over analysis.¹⁰⁵ This criticism suggests that the collective’s negation of the values fostered by establishment media was not able to significantly transform the predictable emotional appeals upon which these media rely. In  Jonas Mekas imagined an “avant-garde newsreel” yet to come. In effect, Schneemann had already begun to make good on this possibility with the production of Snows. While Mekas left his vision of the avantgarde newsreel unspecified, Schneemann emphasized the importance of disrupting the conventional newsreel’s (and by extension television’s) reliance on predictable emotional appeals, appeals that were often simply reversed and recycled in other confrontational modes of artist-led protest, including early Newsreel films. Incorporating risk, random factors, and audience-driven “systems of interference,” Snows created a sensory arena in which performers and audience were kept “constantly off-guard.” Without eliminating emotion altogether from the work, Snows called attention to the space interposed between the viewer and what she sees, throwing into relief the structural conditions that ideologically encode such encounters. Mobilizing metaphors of channeling related to transmission and noise, Snows links the potential of the “avant-garde newsreel” to the project of appropriating and reimaging televisual forms of seeing at a distance. Newsreel’s efforts to “keep moving” and “keep hacking out films” as quickly as possible delayed the emergence of internal conflicts within the original New York–based group. Though in principle the collective made decisions democratically, access to resources and knowledge remained uneven and often determined which projects moved forward. By  these fault lines had become impossible to ignore. Intensive self-analysis and discussion led to the departure of many of the founding members, including Kramer, and changes in the structure of the organization, detailed in Nichols’s study of Newsreel.¹⁰⁶ Nichols celebrates some of the films produced after these changes were implemented for pointing in a new direction for the collective. These films leave confrontation behind to highlight the way subjects come to political consciousness. In the end, however, he concedes that ultimately Newsreel must do more than produce films rooted in cogent political analysis. As a collective it must also find ways to address “still obscure categories of perception” in order to help audiences 88

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see beyond the conditions that currently “dominate social, political and economic relationships”: Newsreel films have generally adhered very closely to the here and now and have given little consideration to the idea of revolution as a facet of consciousness as well as of immediate and specific political struggle. The films assume that the viewer has already developed the facility to conceive of an altered social fabric as something other than chaos and destruction.¹⁰⁷

Here Nichols acknowledges the need for films that offer entry into what he calls “a supplementary dimension to both rational and emotional appeals.”¹⁰⁸ The cinematic dimension that Nichols imagines as “supplementary,” Schneemann treats as primary. Her work is principally concerned with the experience of an “altered social fabric” or, in her terms, the development of “creative inter-relations.” She does not imagine that emotion can be transcended in the process of forging these relations but, rather, treats it as something that must be moved through, attentive to the way that movement is conditioned by relations of power and fear. For Schneemann, this process entails staging encounters that are both physical and figurative, rather than verbal. Newsreel, by contrast, shifts the emphasis toward forms of confrontation that are both embodied and discursive. Consequently, Newsreel confronts the difficulty of engaging in political discourse without falling back on familiar emotional appeals. Emphasizing embodied, nonverbal communication, Schneemann’s work addresses television as a technology and a set of formal broadcasting conventions. Newsreel’s focus on the voices of the people and forms of confrontation that require speech, by contrast, addresses television as an institution with a role to play in mediating political discourse. Had Newsreel pursued the possibility of creating “multiscreen media-mix presentations,” the contradictions between these different approaches might have emerged more sharply. Instead, in shifting the emphasis away from “the image as process,” as visualized in Snows, Newsreel opened up a new direction for the avant-garde newsreel, depicting “the image of process,” which is to say, the process of coming to political consciousness. The next two chapters explore how “the image of process” is transformed once radical filmmakers and artists enter into television studios, as either unexpected intruders or invited artists-in-residence, and begin to disrupt television from the inside. With this shift in orientation, Movement Media/War on Television


Schneemann’s insistence on addressing the emotional appeals of mass media (without imagining they can be negated, transcended, or simply reversed) takes on greater significance. The formal establishment of public television afforded artists and radical filmmakers an opportunity to confront the codes regulating emotionally charged speech on television and, by extension, the question of who is authorized to speak legitimately and how. Entering into the television studio, filmmakers and artists staged events where television’s newfound role in American political life was revealed to pivot around its capacity to discipline public displays of emotion, especially in moments of national crisis.


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3 We Interrupt This Program . . .

On June , , members of the radical film collective Newsreel briefly took over Newsfront, the nightly news program produced by New York City’s first nonprofit educational station, WNDT (New Dimensions in Television), Channel .¹ The broadcast that evening featured a panel discussion on the underground press facilitated by New York Times reporter Steve Roberts. The guests included Marvin Fishman of Newsreel and the editors of two underground newspapers: Jeff Shero of Rat and Allan Katzman of the East Village Other. As the conversation got underway, Shero launched into a critique of the coverage recent protests at Columbia University had received in the Times. Suddenly an audible commotion broke out at the back of the studio. Members of Newsreel had arrived with their own cameras and recording equipment. Forcing their way onto the program, they transformed the evening’s Newsfront broadcast into a newsworthy event in its own right. Newsreel was the only news outlet to film the protests at Columbia University in the spring of  from inside the occupied buildings on campus. The footage appeared in Columbia Revolt (), a fifty-minute film conceived as both a document of the events and a tool for organizing similar actions elsewhere (fig.  .). Columbia Revolt quickly became one of Newsreel’s most popular and widely seen works.² During Newsreel’s brief disruption of the Newsfront broadcast, Fishman referred to the film to underscore the difference between the underground and

. Newsreel, Columbia Revolt,  (film still),  mm, b/w sound,  minutes. Courtesy Third World Newsreel.

establishment press, which he articulated in spatial terms: “We were on the inside where the action was happening. . . . We cannot work like the media does, behind lines of police.” In many ways, however, Newsreel’s temporary occupation of Channel  complicated the straightforward distinction between inside and outside that had been operative during the Columbia occupations. Newsreel’s action at the television station was aired live across the city. In that sense, it functioned as a brief occupation of the airwaves rather than an extended building occupation. “Lines of police” were, therefore, less clearly defined than they had been during the protests at Columbia, where offices and libraries were barricaded from within and surrounded by police from without. Newsreel came together as a film collective in December  in response to the commercial networks’ news coverage of the March on the Pentagon that October. During the brief takeover of Channel  the following summer, its focus of critique shifted from commercial television news to nonprofit educational programming. In , WNDT, Channel , was broadcasting as a member of the nonprofit National Educational Television (NET) network, an organization that grew out of educational


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initiatives undertaken by the Ford Foundation after the Federal Communications Commission set aside  television frequencies for noncommercial educational purposes in . In  the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was established by an act of Congress, and the nonprofit system of educational television entered into a period of transition. This shift was completed in  with the establishment of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) as the CPB’s own distribution network. With PBS in place, CPB withdrew its support for NET. At that point, WNDT merged with the remnants of NET and changed its callsign to WNET.³ With the founding of the Television Lab (TV Lab) at WNET in , Channel  emerged as an important hub of artists’ television. TV Lab was initially set up as “a workshop where creative artists could freely explore the aesthetic dimensions of the electronic medium.”⁴ Four years prior to its establishment, Newsreel’s brief occupation of the station sought to transgress broadcasting conventions seen as stultifying and exclusionary. TV Lab provided artists with an opportunity to transform these conventions anew. The second half of this chapter analyzes how the stakes of Newsreel’s critique of educational programming in  were internalized and reworked within the experimental programming supported by WNET into the mid-s, focusing on works produced by artists Yoko Ono, Douglas Davis, and Nam June Paik. Newsreel’s attempt to take over the Newsfront broadcast in  revealed the fundamental tension between calls to increase access to the airwaves, on the one hand, and the refusal of the terms that condition such access, on the other. This chapter tracks how the tension between these two positions shapes Newsreel’s film Summer ’  and how artists continued to negotiate this conflict in the early days of public broadcasting, reimagining the political potential of television as a medium in the process. Newsreel on TV Newsfront’s invitation to Marvin Fishman to participate in a panel discussion on Channel  as a representative of Newsreel prompted discussion within the radical film collective about programming conventions they saw as inimical to their own ethos as media producers. Allan Siegel, one of the founding members of Newsreel, recalls: What emerged was [that] to talk about alternative media within the confines of a format that was contrary to all we were about, was to belie

We Interrupt This Program . . .


our own identity or sense of purpose. Thus, in a brilliant piece of theater, it was decided that we would occupy the TV studio (which we did) and attempt to redesign the program.⁵

While performatively “redesigning” the Newsfront program, Newsreel also inadvertently demonstrated how establishment media operate to screen out voices of dissent and, as a result, how access does not necessarily guarantee legibility and legitimacy. The headline in the New York Times the day after Newsreel’s action at Channel  read, “ Hippies Invade TV Show and Shout Obscenities on Air.” The front page of the Daily News screamed, “Hippies Turn TV Tubes Blue” (fig. .).⁶ Both papers offered a sensational account of the violation of FCC regulations that denuded the action of any political significance. These reports failed to formally recognize the people who entered the studio as representatives of the underground media being discussed on the program, referring to them only as “hippies” and “invaders.” The article in the Times included statements from staff members at the station who claimed they had been assaulted during the incident but no statements from any of the participants in the action. The “invaders” were thus denied the opportunity to address or rebut these accusations or to provide their own account of what happened. Fishman, the only panelist cited in the Times report, explained that the demonstration had been prompted by “the fact that the Establishment doesn’t give the truth.” The article did not provide any further context for his remarks.⁷ Covering Newsreel’s occupation of Channel  for the underground weekly San Francisco Express Times, Todd Gitlin emphatically echoed Fishman’s claim: Anyone who has ever been billyclubbed or Maced by a cop only to read that his peaceable demonstration was “violent” and that Law Enforcement Officers used “necessary force” (if the fact that cops used force at all was deemed Fit To Print), anyone who has been in Vietnam and returns to hear on the radio that “our boys’ morale is high,” any Columbia insurrectionary who reads the Times accounts, anyone who has lived an event, a place, a mood from the inside, and knows and insists he knows what he saw, heard, felt despite the sonorous, three-button interpretations of Information Specialists; anyone, in short, who has held to the slightest shred of his own intuition and judgment knows that the media lie.

Like Fishman, Gitlin emphasized the schism between living an experience from the inside and the perspective afforded by the establishment press. In 94

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. New York Daily News (front page), June , .

addition to challenging the facts of the incident reported by the New York Times, Gitlin addressed the question of why Channel , a noncommercial affiliate of NET, an educational network celebrated for broadcasting programs such as Inside North Vietnam and the “pro-Castro” Report on Cuba, became a target of critique. Though NET was embraced by some viewers as “an oasis in a wasteland,” Gitlin stressed that the elites who set the agenda for this educational programming had no intention of relinquishWe Interrupt This Program . . .


ing their power. Instead, he argued, they sought only to “secure it more firmly,” with programs “packaged for the most painless consumption, tailored to cramped time-formats, stripped of the sharpest edges.” In Gitlin’s view, educational television offered only “a channeled switch-off ” for those who could no longer “stomach the Big  networks.”⁸ Gitlin’s remarks resonate with other contemporary critiques of public television. For example, addressing public television within a broader analysis of mass media’s role in “cultural imperialism,” Herbert Schiller insists, “Communications cultural planning cannot be formulated by experts and delivered to the rest of the population as a legislative gift,” but must instead “arise with the development of people’s critical consciousness and in the process of struggle.”⁹ Documentation of the Channel  occupation appears in Summer ’  (), a film shot and directed by Newsreel members Norman Fruchter and John Douglas, which takes as its focus the process of struggle Schiller describes.¹⁰ The film follows antiwar organizing in the months leading up to the mass demonstrations staged in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August . Much of Summer ’ focuses on how activists make use of media as an organizing tool. The film includes footage of a Newsreel screening introduced by a member of the Boston Draft Resistance Group and follows organizers’ efforts to connect with draftees and servicemen through the distribution of Vietnam GI, a newspaper published by veterans against the war. In addition to the brief takeover of Channel , Summer ’ also includes two other notable encounters between the underground and the establishment press. The first involves a press conference at JFK Airport in New York for a group of American pilots returning home after being held captive in North Vietnam. The envoy responsible for negotiating their release included a draft resistance activist, Vernon Grizzard, introduced earlier in the film. At the airport, Newsreel finds itself excluded from the press conference “through the connivance of the state department, airport security, and union press.” They film what they can of the event from behind a blocked doorway. Afterward, in a series of voice-overs, the filmmakers respond to Grizzard’s performance, stressing his failure to seize the occasion to air his antiwar views. He responds in a separate voice-over reflecting on the difficulty of communicating any kind of radical position on the war when all the press wants to do is report a “Doris Day homecoming.”¹¹ The second is a comically performative press conference led by Shero at the offices of the underground paper Rat. It begins nonsensically with a karate demonstration to show, as he explains to the bewildered reporters 96

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. Norman Fruchter and John Douglas, Summer ’,  (film still),  mm, b/w,

sound,  minutes. Courtesy Third World Newsreel.

in attendance, that antiwar organizers are preparing “their physiques” as well as their minds for the upcoming demonstrations in Chicago. In the first instance, the terms of the coverage are set entirely by the priorities of the establishment press, and Newsreel is excluded. In the second instance, Shero, on behalf of Rat, dictates the absurd conditions of the encounter (fig. .). During the Newsfront sequence in Summer ’, members of Newsreel enter a space controlled by the establishment media and attempt to maneuver from within the confines of its predetermined format. Unlike the campus protests featured in Columbia Revolt, the Channel  takeover in Summer ’ was not documented from inside the occupied building, “where the action was happening.” Instead the footage that appears in the film was shot across town, directly from a television set during the broadcast (fig. .).¹² Rather than representing the encounter through scenes shot inside the television studio, the filmmakers employ formal interventions, including a series of jump cuts and a brief voiceover, to disrupt the recorded broadcast from without, taking over and intervening in the Newsfront program a second time through these formal additions and subtractions. Relative to the rest of the film, the resolution

We Interrupt This Program . . .


. Norman Fruchter and John Douglas, Summer ’,  (film still),  mm, b/w,

sound,  minutes. Courtesy Third World Newsreel.

of the Channel  sequence in Summer ’ is sharply reduced. Rolling waves of static disrupt the already chaotic footage. This sequence recalls instances where artists such as Aldo Tambellini or Bruce Conner use similar means to emphasize the way images are channeled as broadcast signals, as discussed in previous chapters. In those instances, broadcast images taken out of context are made to bear new or unpredictable affective significance. Here, despite the visual noise produced through the process of filming the television screen, the images continue to function primarily as documentation. The sequence supports claims made by the panelists and other commentators that the establishment press presented an incomplete account of what happened. More significantly, Summer ’ illuminates the conditions under which obscenities were uttered on-air, offering a view of the incident that does not square with the story reported in the New York Times and elsewhere. The sequence begins with a brief exchange between Steve Roberts and Shero about the protests at Columbia.¹³ A sudden jump cut reveals the panelists reacting to something off-frame. Shero remarks with a grin, “There’s the real underground!” As the Newsreelers enter the studio, the panelists beckon them to join the conversation. When they enter the frame, a man in a headset gruffly pushes them out of the way of the cameras, which 98

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continue to roll. The footage clearly shows members of Newsreel getting shoved rather than doing the shoving. When security guards rush in, Fishman yells, “Hey don’t push them! Let them in!” The scuffle, recorded live in Summer ’, continues as a voice-over explains: We chose a liberal alternative like NET because we wanted to say that even the most advanced media are base merchandizing tools, controlled by interests who serve only power. We wanted to say that people can act against media and can build their own media for their own needs. We were so stunned by getting onto the program that we made few of the arguments we came to make.

Although the “redesigned” panel discussion was cut short after twenty minutes by the arrival of the police, members of Newsreel were able to communicate their intent performatively during their brief appearance on the air. According to Katzman, “the battle turned into a battle of the cameras as underground newsreel people turned, reeled and shot footage at the TV cameramen shooting back.”¹⁴ Other members of the group took to the stage and began to reverse the usual conventions of the panel discussion. Refusing to play the role typically assigned to invited guests, they asked their own questions, often addressing no one in particular. These questions refused the logic of expertise that underwrites the panel as a familiar televisual format. Posed without any expectation of a response, these performative inquiries deliberately conflated the conventional role of moderator and guest, and in doing so, disrupted the discursive mode of analysis this news format is designed to generate. These disruptions come to a head with a burst of static followed by a jump cut to a tightly framed shot of Shero, who remarks matter-of-factly, “I can’t say fuck on this TV station.” Shero’s deliberate use of profanity, preceded by the sudden cut and shift in framing, produces a telegraphed intensification of the preceding violations of televisual convention. In  Shero published an account of the event that fills in some of the conversation preceding his profane exclamation that is excluded by the jump cut in Summer ’. He recalls explaining to Roberts that the establishment press could not properly cover a riot in Harlem, because, as he put it at the time, “it can’t even interview the people on the streets.” Whereas its “suit and tie spokesmen” speak only “in educated tones with muted critiques,” the underground press is “in the streets, with the people, in the center of the riot.”¹⁵ Shero remembers using the word “fuck” We Interrupt This Program . . .


on-air, an unprecedented violation of FCC regulations, as a spontaneous retort to Roberts’s puzzled question: “Why can’t we interview the people in the streets?” Contrary to claims that the broadcast had been disrupted by cursing hippies, the primary use of an obscenity on-air occurred when one of the invited panelists calmly pointed out how regulations prohibiting the use of such language constrain the way political unrest is covered by the press. Once word spread that the police were on their way, Fishman’s comrades slipped out of the studio as abruptly as they had arrived. Ultimately, however, seven members of the group were apprehended and arrested, including Fruchter, one of the directors of Summer ’.¹⁶ He and the others were charged with burglary, as well as breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony, namely, rioting, charges that carried a maximum penalty of eleven years in prison. The arrests put an end to Newsreel’s temporary subversion of broadcast norms. For Gitlin, the seriousness of the charges demonstrated the rising stakes of such conflicts.¹⁷ The invited panelists issued a formal statement in the East Village Other that outlined the significance of the action in somewhat more concrete terms: “What the press has described as an assault and attempted take-over of WNDT by a band of hippies, we see as an attempt by members of the underground community to inject authenticity into a sterilized and stultifying program format.”¹⁸ The panelists highlighted the need to transform media formats over and above any specific statements made by the participants, invited or otherwise. They also emphasized the need for greater inclusivity and freedom of expression: We believe that the air should be opened to all elements of the society to express themselves in their own language and according with how they feel they can best communicate their own ideas. The current Federal regulations and corporate ownership of the media make it impossible for minorities to express themselves.¹⁹

FCC regulations and related forms of media self-censorship in print impact “minorities” disproportionately, they argued, a pointed critique that reiterates Shero’s statements on-air. That critique, however, is entirely eliminated by the jump cut in Summer ’. As such, the edit marks a break between demands for greater access and the position articulated by the film’s narrator—that people can act against media, which is to say, against its tendency to constrain the impact of dissent by assigning everyone to a legible, predetermined position. (Demands for greater access, as we shall 100

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see, were challenged by activists and scholars who saw this strategy as complicit with ideological and institutional frameworks that reinforced long-standing social divisions.) The panel discussion on Newsfront was occasioned in large part by the controversy surrounding news coverage of the protests at Columbia University. Questions of access and representation were at the heart of the conflict between the protesters and the school’s administration. The distinction between the panelists’ statement and the position taken by the filmmakers in Summer ’ comes more clearly into focus in light of this conflict. Though the protests addressed the university’s involvement in military research supporting the Vietnam War, they first erupted over a dispute between the university and people living in the neighborhood adjacent to campus. The latter issue provides important context for Shero’s concern with the way a riot in Harlem is covered in the press. Plans to build a university-controlled gymnasium in Morningside Park, a public space seen by residents of the surrounding Harlem neighborhood as their own, faced growing community opposition in the months before construction began in February . Dubbed “Gym Crow” by its opponents, the facility was intended primarily for Columbia students, who were by and large (but not exclusively) wealthy and white (fig. .). As a concession to the protesters, the university agreed to provide local residents access to a separate “community gym” in the basement of the building. The fact that those residents, who were largely Black and Puerto Rican, would be required to use a back entrance on a lower level than the student entrance caused outrage that reached a breaking point after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April , .²⁰ The uprisings that took place in Harlem and across the country in the days after his death created conditions seized upon by student activists, who joined their neighbors in protesting the university’s discriminatory policies and unchecked expansion into Morningside Heights under the guise of “urban renewal.”²¹ The ensuing protests at Columbia called attention to the university’s plan to provide separate, unequal access to the gym facility as part of a broader institutional agenda based on keeping students and neighborhood residents apart.²² Opponents of the proposal demanded that construction of the gym be halted altogether. Collective acts of resistance enabled students and neighborhood residents to refuse the social divisions and spatial allocations mandated by the university and to redefine their own roles, alliances, and proper place on campus. This strategy of contestation parallels the distinction that emerges in Summer ’ between calls for access and We Interrupt This Program . . .


. “Stop Columbia’s Gym Crow,” , University Protest and Activism Collection, –, box , folder , University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

refusal of the terms that condition access, where those terms entail assigning roles and maintaining social divisions. The struggle against the gym helped forge alliances between campus organizations, including the Students’ Afro-American Society (SAS), Black Students of Hamilton Hall, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and community-based groups, such as the West Harlem Tenants Association, Morningsiders United, and Harlem CORE.²³ One protester, Ray102

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mond Brown, described “the steady stream of visitors to Hamilton Hall,” noting that the New York Times largely missed or ignored the significance of these visits. While some press coverage acknowledged nationally recognized figures who came to lend their support to the protesters, including Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, borough president Percy Sutton, and state senator Basil Paterson, visits from members of the West Harlem Tenants Association and other community groups, as Brown recounts, went unremarked.²⁴ Importantly, divisions between students also emerged over the course of the protests. During the initial occupation of Hamilton Hall, the Black students asked the white students, who were less well organized and less committed to the tactics of occupation at that point, to leave the building and to consider occupying other buildings on campus, which, ultimately, they did. This did not, however, indicate a weakening of solidarity, nor a departure from the larger set of demands issued by the protesters, which, in addition to halting construction on the gym, included breaking ties between the university and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)—a Department of Defense–affiliated weapons-research think tank. As William Sales, one of the Black students who remained in Hamilton Hall, observed, all of the protesters continued to endorse the full slate of collectively drawn-up demands after the split, though there were “important tactical considerations that could not be ignored.” The Black students felt that the white students tended to underestimate “the violence that the system was capable of directing at its own citizens when challenged.”²⁵ Acting against the interests of the university required anticipating how it might respond. Concerns about what might happen if the university called upon the police to restore order revealed differences in perspective and tactical thinking deeply inflected by that order.²⁶ The schism between the Black students and the white students during the first phase of protest at Columbia foregrounded the need to develop alliances and structures of mutual support. This process required the protesters to confront social disparities, disparities that would not be remedied by offers of separate and unequal access to university resources. Newsreel’s disruption of the Newsfront broadcast called attention to the ways in which media cover political conflict from a particular position, either from “the inside where the action is happening” or from the outside, “behind lines of police,” implicitly (or explicitly) aligned with one side or the other. The coverage of the disrupted Newsfront broadcast further underscored this point. Referring to members of Newsreel dismissively as “hippies,” or, alternatively, as members of the underground press, it proWe Interrupt This Program . . .


vided a timely example of how media designate social roles and define the terms of their enactment. Newsreel’s performative subversion of the panel format during the Newsfront broadcast took aim at the formal codes and conventions that work to naturalize these roles, and by extension, determine who can speak and how. Shero’s unplanned violation of FCC regulations dramatically reiterated these concerns but also became the sensational focus of efforts to delegitimate and depoliticize the significance of the collective’s action. Shero and his fellow panelists demanded that the airwaves be “opened to all elements of the society,” understood as a totality of distinct groups, including minorities, already defined in advance. The final moments of Summer ’ point toward a different horizon of possibility—the emergence of a collective whose social identity comes into being only through a process of engaged struggle, struggle that may yield new alliances and realignments of identity, as occurred during the protests at Columbia earlier that spring. The film ends with a voice-over looking back on an intense week of protest at the DNC in Chicago, which involved marches and street skirmishes with police, followed by long discussions among the organizers around tactics and logistics: When we left Chicago to go back to our own communities, our sense of triumph quickly became a memory. What we went back to was the tough, day-to-day work of building a revolutionary movement. And what Chicago finally came to, for us, was the feeling of what it might be like after making that revolution, when anyone could say: “We are the people!”²⁷

Throughout Summer ’, the filmmakers analyze the way media operate to foreclose this revolutionary possibility. One of the most significant moments of critical self-reflection comes with the observation that the televised media coverage of police violence directed at the protesters in Chicago had the effect of overshadowing the original purpose of the protest, which was to call for an end to the Vietnam War. Confronting these setbacks head-on and acknowledging the difficulty of effecting lasting change, Summer ’ analyzes how people come together through the process of acting against media. It frames this struggle as part of a larger political process of building alliances and making claims on public space, including the airwaves.²⁸ During the protests at Columbia, Newsreel refused to remain “behind police lines” with the rest of the press. It filmed the occupations from inside the barricades, space redefined by collective efforts to keep the police 104

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 Bruce Conner, television assassination, –/,  mm, b/w, silent, Zenith television with painted screen, Bolex film projector, film reel, electric cord (installed dimensions variable). Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of Robert Shapazian, .

 William Pepper, “The Children of Vietnam,” Ramparts magazine, January .

 Carolee Schneemann, Viet-Flakes, – (film still),  mm film trans-

ferred to video, toned b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix. ©  Carolee Schneemann Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York.

 Carolee Schneemann, Viet-Flakes, – (film still),  mm film trans-

ferred to video, toned b/w, sound,  minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix. ©  Carolee Schneemann Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York.

 Nam June Paik and John Godfrey, Global Groove,  (video still), video, color,

sound, : minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 Nam June Paik in collaboration with Douglas Davis, Jud Yalkut, and Shigeko

Kubota, Suite , / (video still), video, color, sound, : minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 Nam June Paik in collaboration with Douglas Davis, Jud Yalkut, and Shigeko Kubota, Suite , / (video still), video, color, sound, : minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 Nam June Paik in collaboration with Douglas Davis, Jud Yalkut, and Shigeko

Kubota, Suite , / (video still), video, color, sound, : minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 Nam June Paik in collaboration with Douglas Davis, Jud Yalkut, and Shigeko Kubota, Suite , / (video still), video, color, sound, : minutes. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 Kahlil Joseph, blknws, –ongoing. Multichannel installation, color, sound. Made in L.A.: A Version, Hank’s Mini Market, South Los Angeles. Photograph by Jeff McLane.

 Sondra Perry, Resident Evil, . D animation created with Blender opensource software, video on monitor on credenza, color, sound, : minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

out. Summer ’ depicts encounters with officers of the law called in to put down dissent, but it also begins to reckon with the police function of the media. Though spectacular police violence recurs throughout the footage devoted to the DNC protests, the brief occupation of Channel  calls attention to subtler forms of policing, wherein the media participate in naturalizing normative roles, modes of acceptable speech, and recognizable forms of social identity.²⁹ The channeled images that appear in Summer ’ both document and formally enact a disruption that opens up the possibility of acting against media. The development of experimental programming on public television took up and, in some ways, rerouted this possibility. Television Turns the Cameras on Itself In  Newsfront was canceled to “make way for community-participation programs.” A report in the New York Times identified two such programs, both still in development. The first, Speak Out, would make use of the station’s “long-neglected mobile broadcasting unit” in order to visit any place in the city “where something is happening.” The second, Drop In and Sound Off, would be broadcast nightly from : to midnight, during which time “anyone is encouraged to come into Channel ’s studios and speak on any subject he cares to.”³⁰ These plans offered a belated response to calls for greater public access and inclusivity, which had come to a head during Newsreel’s occupation of the station in . While plans for Speak Out never came to fruition, James Day, the president of NET, hired to oversee its merger with WNDT, explained that “a seldom-used mobile unit” was exhumed in  in order to provide “a front-row seat at such highly publicized events as the Knapp Commission hearings on police corruption.”³¹ Similarly, Drop In and Sound Off never aired as originally envisioned. Instead, it evolved into Free Time, a program Day described as “an unconventional and free-spirited local series,” modified from “an open studio” model to “the more practical concept” of a show broadcast live three times a week “with a minimum of structure and a maximum of provocation.”³² Day’s account of Free Time highlights the wide range of voices the show sought to include on-air, both famous and unknown: Abbie Hoffman “moderated” a panel on the press; the consuls general of India and Pakistan debated the war in Bangladesh; and Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda aired their unpopular views on the Vietnam War. The show’s We Interrupt This Program . . .


tissue-thin budget produced lots of talk: open-ended discussions by Bronx street gangs, New York cabbies, Black film producers, women writers, domestic help, telephone operators, and other denizens of a world rarely glimpsed on the tube.

In addition to activists and everyday people, the show included performances by poets, musicians, and artists. On one episode of Free Time, Allen Ginsberg recited William Blake alongside poets Peter Orlovsky and Gerard Malanga, while an uncredited Bob Dylan played guitar in the background.³³ On October , , Yoko Ono gave a memorable performance on Free Time aided by John Lennon and Jonas Mekas. The broadcast coincided with a solo exhibition of Ono’s work entitled This Is Not Here at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York.³⁴ The broadcast incorporated written event scores and live performances including Fly Piece, which involved members of the studio audience lining up to leap from the top of a ladder into Lennon’s arms.³⁵ The broadcast also included excerpts from some of Ono’s  mm experimental films, including Fly (), featuring a fly and a woman’s bare flesh, and Film No.  (Bottoms) (), featuring the bare “bottoms” of hundreds of friends and fellow artists, which Ono had originally conceived as a kind of embodied “petition for peace.”³⁶ During one segment of the program, Ono, Lennon, and Mekas (who wore a top hat bearing the label “fool”) sat together as if for a panel discussion. With no moderator to intervene, they solicited questions directly from the live studio audience. The panelists responded to each inquiry with another question in turn. As with Newsreel’s brief appearance on Newsfront in , this subversion of convention performatively “redesigned” the format of panel discussion. The hour-long broadcast took place live on-air in front of a studio audience. But aside from the panel discussion sequence, Ono’s appearance on Free Time largely replicated the conditions under which she had performed these pieces elsewhere.³⁷ On May , , WNET aired a live, ninety-minute program entitled The Television Show, produced by the recently established TV Lab, that was intended to usher in a new era of artist-driven experimentation at Channel . Borrowing the political rhetoric of the period, it was billed as “a video consciousness raising event.”³⁸ It aired from : pm to midnight, during the late-night time slot previously occupied by Free Time, which had been canceled in , and was broadcast from the same television studio briefly occupied by members of Newsreel in .³⁹ The account of the program published in TV Lab’s newsletter declared, “Television Turns the Cameras on Itself.”⁴⁰ Where once the radical film collective had confronted the net106

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work’s TV cameras with their own handheld film cameras, the producers at TV Lab now endeavored to self-reflexively perform the same gesture. In doing so, The Television Show revived the conflict between calls for greater access and critical attention to the terms under which access is sanctioned or denied that had been at the center of Newsreel’s original action. TV Lab grew out of an initiative called the Artist Television Workshop, established in  with the support of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). The workshop supported artists interested in making work specifically for television, seeking to move beyond the use of television solely to present work made for other performance contexts, as Ono and others had done on Free Time. The seed funding for the initiative provided by the state was limited, but the Rockefeller Foundation soon stepped in to provide much-needed supplemental support. This new funding came with the foundation’s recommendation that the mission of the workshop as an incubator for experimentation be expanded to include support for journalistic and documentary productions. The change in name from Artist Television Workshop to TV Lab reflected this new, more inclusive orientation.⁴¹ In  the Rockefeller Foundation further expanded its support for the project, awarding it the largest grant in the history of experimental television to date.⁴² In its first two years, TV Lab operated primarily as an artist-in-residence program, supporting the creation of works of art made on video for broadcast by artists such as Nam June Paik, Ed Emshwiller, and Douglas Davis.⁴³ It gave artists access they would not otherwise have had to special equipment, facilities, and technical support, including a blue-screen chroma-key studio, video synthesizers, and a digital timebase corrector.⁴⁴ The Television Show marked a moment of transition toward supporting a wider range of programming in addition to the artistproduced works made with the lab’s specialized equipment. The Television Show ran as a pilot for a program intended to showcase the artists’ television being produced at TV Lab alongside equally innovative video journalism. It also experimented with new forms of direct audience engagement.⁴⁵ Whereas Ono, for example, had solicited questions from a studio audience, here viewers at home were invited to phone in responses to questions related to the program: “What’s your favorite TV memory?” “Does television have too much power or too little?” By implying that power belongs to the medium itself, these inquiries suggest how the program’s concerns departed from earlier concerns about the ways media facilitate power claimed by “the people” through the process of forging political alliances. We Interrupt This Program . . .


Furthermore, despite TV Lab’s avowed commitment to experimentation, The Television Show returned to the familiar format of a panel discussion. The host of the show, David Silver, moderated a discussion that included Newsweek critic John Leonard, George Stoney of New York City’s Alternate Media Center, and TV Lab artists-in-residence Paik and Emshwiller. The variety-style program began with vintage Ernie Kovacs kinescopes, followed by a report from a Star Trek convention, tape from the video collective TVTV (cofounded by Michael Shamberg after leaving Raindance), and excerpts of new work produced by Emshwiller and Paik at the lab.⁴⁶ The Television Show sought to encompass television’s past, present, and future, creating a “total television feeling” in the process.⁴⁷ The panelists sat in front of a bank of television monitors, each tuned to a different channel. Blaring in the background, this multichannel array emphasized the present tense of television, giving viewers a glimpse of all the other local broadcasts on-air at that moment. The irreverent comedy of Kovacs paid tribute to an early maverick of broadcast, while Paik and Emshwiller presented new work produced with the aid of the cutting-edge technology at the lab. Paik offered audiences an early glimpse of his half-hour singlechannel video work Global Groove, recorded just weeks earlier, which would be broadcast in full on Channel  the following year.⁴⁸ Global Groove promised a view of “a video landscape of tomorrow when you will be able to switch on any TV station on the earth.” Utilizing a video synthesizer that he built with technician Shuya Abe, Paik painted this picture of the future in electric Day-Glo hues, layering feeds from multiple cameras in order to exploit the abstracting effects of chroma-key and video feedback. In this way, Global Groove playfully literalized the program’s promise of television turning the cameras on itself, while at the same time creating an aesthetic analog to the political tactics employed by Newsreel in . Global Groove envisioned a cultural commons populated by dancers, musicians, poets, composers, and actors, where distinctions between pop and ritual, high and low, would cease to function hierarchically (plate ). The work featured performances and interviews with collaborators, friends, and fellow avant-gardists, including Charlotte Moorman, Allen Ginsberg, John Cage, and members of the Living Theater. If the wall of video monitors behind the panelists emphasized televisual simultaneity, then Global Groove sought a formal means for producing televisual synthesis, a single channel capacious enough to encompass the multiplicity of signals to come. As a videographic ode to the arts, Global Groove responded directly to TV Lab’s mandate to support the production of art 108

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intended for broadcast, while at the same time presenting work by artists made to be shown in other contexts. Paik’s vision of the televisual future was, however, just one part of the greater whole presented by The Television Show. The program also included a digest of material produced for cable-access community television, presented by George Stoney, who cofounded the Alternative Media Center in , an organization that played a significant role in launching the public-access cable movement.⁴⁹ TV Lab’s newsletter describes this segment of the program as “a look at television at its most intimate—in the hands of the public via public access and cable stations, which cover everything from a mother’s plea for the return of her lost son, to the Ku Klux Klan broadcasting its own message, to a profile of [a] superintendent who turned a closed-circuit security system into the building complex’s own television station.”⁵⁰ As this description suggests, the attempt here to make good on the demand that “all elements of the society” be granted access to the airwaves included the voices of white supremacists, among many others. When asked about Stoney’s choice to include this material in the segment, David Loxton, the director of TV Lab, replied, “He himself said, that the last thing in the world he wanted was the Ku Klux Klan getting on television and expressing its points of view. But on the other hand, he felt very strongly that television should now be made accessible to the general public, where it’s now controlled by the powers of commercial television, or even the powers of public television.”⁵¹ In  representatives of the underground media, concerned about regulations that excluded the voices of minorities in practice, had called for the airwaves to “be opened to all elements of the society to express themselves in their own language.” What would they have thought of their demand being extended to defend, on principle, the inclusion of voices expressing extreme racial prejudice? Programming at WNET focused on local issues had made a point of granting airtime to minority voices previously excluded from the airwaves. Free Time, for example, featured important Black artists and poets, such as Nikki Giovanni, as well as leaders of the Black Power movement. Bobby Seale had come on the program to speak about the role of the Black Panthers in the uprising at Attica.⁵² After Free Time was canceled, The Television Show tested the limits of open access as a policy, which the institution of cable access had reanimated as a matter of debate. In doing so, it betrayed the limitations of a politics of access that comes at the expense of building alliances through collective struggle. The call to act against media in Summer ’ is a call to upend divisions We Interrupt This Program . . .


set in place by the ordering operations of the establishment (something the protesters who came together during the building occupations at Columbia understood well), but also a call to make alliances forged through political struggle more fully legible. Rather than seeking greater access to media at the cost of requiring “all elements of the society” to remain in their proper place, Summer ’ asks how media can participate in the “tough, day-to-day work of building a revolutionary movement.” The film engages the struggle for greater media access as a question concerning the aims of appropriation. How, it asks, can media be taken up to counter institutionalized forms of injustice, exploitation, and racism? Summer ’ does not pretend to know the answer to this question in advance, or to know what the struggles it depicts will ultimately yield. Though it ends on an uncertain note, the film affirms its commitment to the political struggles it presents as open and ongoing. The Television Show arrived at a moment of uncertainty about how broadcasters at WNET, Channel , would continue to make good on promises of increased access and audience engagement after the cancelation of programs like Free Time and other similar initiatives that embraced more open-ended formats. As such, it revealed the difficulty of challenging the conventions of the medium from within the media establishment without first working through the larger question of its own relationship to the status quo. In his review of The Television Show, John J. O’Connor, television critic for the New York Times, noted that, in principle, “a regularly scheduled program to examine developments and products outside the arena of Establishment television—commercial and public—would be valuable.” In practice, however, he found the program too anxious to entertain and, as a result, “cluttered and diluted” with “innumerable bits and pieces of trivia.”⁵³ As an abandoned pilot for a series that never came to be, The Television Show brought to light some of the limitations built into experimental television programming at that moment, but in doing so, it invited artists to take stock of the role they might play in an initiative like TV Lab going forward. O’Connor’s review of the program ends on an unexpected note. At one point in the program, the critic had observed Paik playing “with the big toe on his right foot,” seeming to find that activity “preferable to watching television.” He concludes that, for the moment, viewers at home are likely to feel the same way. Here, the possibility that people can act against media returns as an absentminded expression of indifference on the part of the artist, a gesture that demonstrates Paik’s sly refusal to play the part of the forward-looking visionary that he had been assigned by the producers of the program. 110

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Time to Turn Television Around As the political battles of the s wore on, the impulse to “act against media” took on new, sometimes surprising or indeterminate forms. In April , for instance, viewers who were tuned in as WNET signed off the air for the night might have been startled by the appearance of a man in a room painted chroma-key blue. Turned away from the camera, he sat watching a television at the center of an oddly empty space, from which all markers of domesticity, save for the TV stand, had been stripped away. Rising and turning to address the viewer directly, he declared, “You and I have been watching television from this side, like this all day today. We’ve been watching it this way for years. It’s the end of the day now, and I say, it’s time to turn television around.” Instead of turning off their sets for the night, the man asked viewers to join him in “an experiment, a meditation, a performance that can take place now in homes throughout the city.” Tune your televisions to a channel without a signal, he instructed viewers, then turn the set to face the wall and meditate on the resulting white noise: “Watch for as long as you can, for hours, perhaps until the morning, and find out what television has to say to us from the other side.” The man onscreen was Douglas Davis, a critic and artist associated with TV Lab from its earliest days. The work, Present Tense, appeared as part of a month-long series of short experimental sign-off segments produced by artists working at the lab, including Paik, Emshwiller, Shigeko Kubota, and Jud Yalkut. In the late s, Davis began staging happenings and later produced experimental television broadcasts at WNET and elsewhere. In the summer of , for instance, he organized an all-day event at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, with artists, critics, curators, and video collectives involved in what he called “new television.”⁵⁴ The program culminated in a thirty-minute television broadcast entitled Electronic Hokkadim on WTOP, the local CBS affiliate. The title of the work referred to what the artist identified, in culturally appropriative (and questionable) terms, as “the participative music of ancient Africa.”⁵⁵ During the broadcast, he invited viewers to call in to the station and add their own sounds to “the song of the city.” Promotional materials for the event indicated that any sound was permissible; viewers were welcome to “shout, sing, grunt, whistle, play an instrument, [or] talk at the TV.” The live feed that resulted was then processed through an oscilloscope and two different video synthesizers (including the one developed by Paik and Abe). Davis hoped that the broadcast would allow the city to collectively “make what it sees.”⁵⁶ In an interview with Yalkut, Davis described his disappointment when We Interrupt This Program . . .


the event did not go according to plan. Producers at WTOP, he explained, changed the script without his approval just minutes before the program aired, ending what the artist described as his “naivety about television, about being able to change political and social structures.” Despite feeling betrayed by the show’s producers, he continued to feel “that you could count on the people.” As he told Yalkut, “Listening to those sounds I realized that people are really much further out than even they realized.” In the end, however, he was frustrated with the outcome of the program, which he described as “formless,” “shapeless,” and “a mess.”⁵⁷ Davis published a manifesto to accompany Electronic Hokkadim that declared, “Open a Channel to Every Mind . . . Let Every Mind Communicate with Every Other Mind.”⁵⁸ Soon after, he produced Images from the Present Tense, which he described as his “first non-participative work,” but which ultimately led him back to the idea of an open channel for every mind. Davis initially conceived Images from the Present Tense as a negative response to his compromised attempt in Electronic Hokkadim to provide the people of Washington, DC, with direct, if temporary, access to the airwaves. Though the work began as a retreat from staging participatory actions, born of his disappointment with the earlier broadcast, over time it evolved into something more ambiguous and complex. Davis first showed Images for the Present Tense in  at the Reese Palley Gallery in Soho as an installation consisting of a television on a pedestal facing the wall in a darkened room. That same year, he also made a thirty-minute videotape, Black and White Studies I, that begins with a slow pan of the street outside the gallery.⁵⁹ Entering the space, the camera moves at a measured pace past a brightly lit wall hung with paintings, toward a darkened room at the back, where it encounters the television facing the wall, the only source of light in the space. Lingering there for what feels like a long time, the camera then slowly makes its way back through the gallery and out onto the street, completing the loop in a single, uninterrupted take. Eventually, Davis restaged the work as Present Tense, the brief performative sign-off broadcast on WNET in  (plate ). In  Davis published “Video Obscura,” an essay that observed, perhaps defensively given his own durational approach to the medium, that “critics who find contemporary video art dull tend to demonstrate a remarkable insensitivity to the video screen.”⁶⁰ The difficulty could be traced back to the inability to see video free from “the prejudice of film.” Video should not be assessed according to standards set by the properly public occasion of a screening in a theater for a large audience, he argued. As a medium, it is not well suited to theater-space because videospace is 112

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“essentially private.” Armed with this new insight, born of his experience working with single-channel video, Davis returned to television as a site of artistic production. Abandoning his earlier interest in convening a participatory collective, an audience of “the people,” as he had done in Electronic Hokkadim, he began to focus instead on the possibility of addressing every viewer as a singular and unique individual. Turning the television around had revealed to Davis the great potential for two-way, one-to-one communication between artist and viewer, where each might receive and respond to messages in his or her own private videospace. As he told Yalkut, for him, television was not “a place to make pretty pictures” but rather “a link between viewers and myself.”⁶¹ As Davis came to see the concept of “public television” as a structural impossibility, he set out to demonstrate that all television broadcasting takes the form of an essentially private mode of address, no matter what the message. Present Tense appears at the end of Suite , a tape produced by Paik in  compiling selections from the month-long series of artist-produced sign-offs broadcast on WNET (plate ). The tape begins with The Selling of New York, a segment produced by Paik as a stand-alone, single-channel video in  and broadcast as part of the  series. Like Davis, Paik often returned to earlier material and repurposed it for use in new contexts. The Selling of New York offers an alternative to the turn away from the public mandate of TV Lab that Davis performs in Present Tense. At the same time, Paik’s work betrays its own anxieties about the project of public television. Instead of seeking to reduce it to an empty channel, a space of pure potential for private two-way communication yet to come, Paik playfully mocks the authoritative modes of address associated with informational and cultural programming on public television, estranging the familiar appearance of the talking head through videographic distortion and displacement. In doing so, he conjures a lively populist response to the didactic program formats that continued to dominate public broadcasting, despite its forays into artist-led experimental production during this period. The Selling of New York centers around the figure of Russell Connor, who also provides the voice-over in Global Groove. In the opening sequence, he sits beside Paik’s longtime collaborator, Charlotte Moorman, as she performs Paik’s composition TV Bra for Living Sculpture (). Connor’s face appears on two small television screens fashioned into a wearable media apparatus, the “TV Bra,” worn by Moorman as she plays the cello. Throughout the sequence, the camera pans back and forth from Connor to his distorted appearance on these portable monitors. He We Interrupt This Program . . .


offers an authoritative account of the recent building spree in New York prompted by the growing number of foreign firms relocating to the city, signifying “the emergence of the U.S. multi-national corporation.” A Japanese Pepsi commercial interrupts this discourse without warning. When Connor returns to the screen, his face fills the entire screen, distorted and destabilized through the intervention of the Paik-Abe synthesizer. As the sequence unfolds, the camera leaves the studio behind for various urban spaces where everyday viewers react to Connor’s appearance on TV as a talking head. A woman in a bathtub watching a small portable set laughs and shouts back at his image excitedly, perhaps even sarcastically. Another woman in a hair salon yells, “Get rid of it, turn it off,” mocking his droning speech as nothing but “yap yap” (plate ). These set pieces invite us to consider the social spaces of reception, both private and semipublic, where viewers engage or disengage with television as part of their everyday lives.⁶² Paik’s work presents a decidedly populist set of reactions to the didactic and authoritative modes of speech often associated with public broadcasting. Some viewers express excitement or annoyance, others complete disinterest. Humor aside, these moments in The Selling of New York betray anxiety about how public television in general, but also, more pointedly, artist-made public television, will ultimately reach the wider audience it seeks. In  Paik again reprised The Selling of New York for a half-hour broadcast entitled Media Shuttle: Moscow/New York (), coproduced with Dimitri Devyatkin. The work imagines a “citizen’s band television” that would enable people in New York and Moscow to “see and talk with each other via satellite,” bringing his approach to television into closer alignment with Davis’s interest in cultivating space for direct dialogue and two-way exchange.⁶³ Eight years later, Paik was thinking seriously about this possibility again. In  he wrote a letter to O’Connor, who was then still writing television criticism at the Times, in which he explained, “My last goal is to set up a gigantic TV screen in Time Square [sic] and Red Square.” Through this open two-way channel, people would be able to talk and see each other any time they like, twenty-four hours a day,  days a year. Paik concludes, “It will cost one-millionth of star war [sic] and [be] a lot more effective.”⁶⁴ In  Paik wrote a short essay entitled “Global Groove and Video Common Market,” which was republished in TV Lab’s newsletter in . There he advocated for a system of barter or noncommercial exchange that would allow television producers to share broadcast tapes across international borders, the way the European Common Market encourages 114

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economic trade. He framed this proposal in terms of promoting forms of cultural exchange that might cut against the racism underlying the Vietnam War and, with a note of dry wit, suggested that middle-class bourgeois programming could also function as a powerfully unifying cultural force and a weapon of Cold War infiltration: Most Asian faces we encounter on the American TV screen are either miserable refugees, wretched pioneers, or hated dictators. But most middle-class Asians are seeing essentially the same kind of clean-cut entertainment shows on their home screens as most American Nielsen families. Did this vast information gap contribute to recent tragedies in Vietnam? And how about Russian TV? They might not be that bad if they ran such bourgeois soap operas as The Forsyte Saga, and I am curious how their Huntley-Brinkley-vich talk the Pravda (truth) every evening.⁶⁵

Paik’s letter to O’Connor suggests that, by , the artist was ready to bypass bourgeois costume dramas and middle-class sitcoms (as well as his own more experimental programming for public television) in order to encourage people to encounter one another freely across geopolitical borders imposed from above. His proposal echoes aspects of Davis’s approach to television but situates these personal exchanges squarely within public space, rather than the private realm of videospace. Both artists, however, envision the transformation of public television into an open channel for two-way communication, stripped not only of government oversight and regulation but also of the familiar formats and conventions associated with professionally produced television, public or otherwise. From the moment it was established, public television was seen by its critics as “a channeled switch-off ” for those who could no longer “stomach the Big  networks,” as Gitlin complained in . In turn, Davis and Paik reimagined it as a channel open (in principle, if not necessarily in practice) to unscripted and unregulated exchange. Their work envisions television as a site of encounter, between private individuals or between citizens on either side of a divided world. Neither Davis nor Paik had much truck with the radical New Left politics espoused by Newsreel as a collective. Davis’s sensibility leaned toward anarcholibertarianism, while Paik’s was shaped by the antinomies of Cold War liberalism and populist antielitism. As a result, their calls for open channels were implicitly set against the idea of regulation or control exercised by the powers that be, without taking up the question at the heart of Summer ’ as to how control might be contested through collective action. While the Newsreel filmmakers, Fruchter We Interrupt This Program . . .


and Douglas, grapple openly with the difficulties entailed in such a struggle, Paik and Davis instead picture a wide range of ambivalent responses to television, small acts against media that continue to take place in the gap between possibility and reality. The Selling of New York ends with a gesture worth revisiting as a way of addressing how artists’ television developed in the period following the events depicted in Summer ’. Connor’s face appears in this sequence on a tightly framed portable television in a dimly lit bedroom. His discourse swerves away from the topic of multinational corporations to a subject that often dominates the local nightly news—crime. He points to signs that the crime rate in New York is beginning to decline, observing approvingly that the city’s police force is now “larger than the army of Denmark.” As he reports that “robberies and burglaries are down markedly from only a year ago,” a figure dressed in black emerges from the shadows. Before Connor can say another word, the man stealthily unplugs and makes off with the set (plate ). Comically subverting the talking head’s guileless reporting, this scene envisions a new role for the artist. As long as television speaks on behalf of the police, Paik suggests, the artist must remain aligned with the thief, and continue to act against media while remaining hidden in plain sight. The films, programs, broadcast events, and artists’ videos discussed in this chapter envision television as a channel open to frictionless encounter or occupied through collective direct action. These works negotiate questions of access and seek to challenge or evade media operations that would otherwise limit the terms of that access in advance. Despite their differences, as single-channel works they largely leave aside the question of how to navigate between multiple channels at once. This problem surfaces noisily in the background of The Television Show, where a bank of monitors creates a televisual surround, setting the panel discussion within an environment pervaded by many broadcast signals at once. Concerned with the question of how to manage audio and visual inputs from multiple sources, artists began to create multichannel environments designed to train viewers to manage information overload while mitigating the effects of affective dissonance this experience often produces. These efforts, as will be discussed in the next chapter, were less concerned with questions of access than with how attention is channeled and, in the process, how relations between self and others are mediated.


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4 Public Television/Nervous System

The night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, fires burned in Roxbury and the South End of Boston, as they did in more than a hundred other cities across the nation. James Brown had been scheduled to play the Boston Garden the following evening, April , . Fearful that the event might draw rioters to the center of the city, the venue canceled the show. Tom Atkins, Boston’s sole Black city councilman, urged the mayor to intervene. Calling off the show, he argued, would likely spark further unrest. In an effort to defuse the situation, Atkins helped broker a deal to air Brown’s concert live on WGBH, Channel , an educational television station, where in  viewers would have been more likely to catch a performance by the Boston Symphony than “the hardest working man in show business.” Near the end of the concert, tension erupted without warning. Brown, draped in his famous cape, was down on one knee. Suddenly a few enthusiastic young members of the audience rushed forward and jumped onstage. A line of police officers pushed back aggressively. All at once it seemed as if violence between white policemen and Black concertgoers might break out on live television. For a few nerve-racking minutes, Brown’s spectacular performance became an unpredictable participatory event. In the midst of the confusion, he struggled to reclaim the spotlight and keep the police from overreacting to the electrified crowd. Attempting to reassure the officers, Brown repeated, “I’m okay, I’m okay.” Realizing they would not stand down, he

. James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden, WGBH-TV,  (video still), broad-

cast, b/w, sound.

finally quelled the escalating hostility by addressing the audience directly. “Are we together or ain’t we?” he pleaded, making explicit the terms under which the broadcast would be allowed to continue as an officially sanctioned diversion from less welcome forms of dissensus (fig.  .). While people took to the streets to express their rage and grief in Washington, DC, Chicago, Baltimore, and elsewhere in the days following King’s death, Boston remained eerily quiet, a phenomenon widely credited to Brown’s riveting appearance on television that night.¹ This story forms an important backdrop for another remarkable live concert broadcast that began to take shape a little more than a year later at WGBH. In  Stan VanDerBeek became an “Artist-in-Television” as part of a new initiative supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Like New York City’s Channel , WGBH was then a member of the National Educational Television (NET) network and on its way to becoming an important hub of artists’ television in a new era of public broadcasting. During his residency, VanDerBeek staged Violence Sonata (), a work he conceived as an “information concert,” a phrase that signals the distance between his aims and those underlying the decision to broadcast James Brown live from the Boston Garden the previous spring. Though Brown’s cathartic performance may have offered a temporary reprieve during a moment of widespread unrest, the concert was an 118

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unusual departure from the kind of educational, cultural, and public interest programming viewers had come to expect from WGBH. Advocates for public television saw it as a means to provide an alternative to the populist entertainment produced by the commercial networks. By offering programs that modeled civic debate and the cultivation of expertise, they hoped to encourage viewers to become more engaged citizens, capable of expressing their views without resorting to violence.² As an artist, VanDerBeek also approached television as a means for increasing social engagement, but he saw it as part of an integrated civic “nervous system” rather than as a disciplinary apparatus. With Violence Sonata, he set out to test television’s capacity to mediate conflict directly. This live two-channel experimental broadcast sought to address social tensions by introducing feedback into the media environment. While the issue of access preoccupied many of his peers, channeling as a conceptual and formal trope in VanDerBeek’s work was concerned instead with issues of attention and affect.³ The Rockefeller Artist-in-Television program was established in . At that time, WGBH was already widely recognized for its high-quality arts and public interest programming. In  it had produced an hour-long television special entitled The Negro and the American Promise, structured around interviews conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark, a professor of psychology at City College, with King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. The program was a production of WGBH in Boston, but for the sake of convenience, the interviews were recorded in New York City. As it happens, these conversations took place in the same Channel  television studio that members of Newsreel would briefly take over in , and where, a few years later, Nam June Paik, as an artist-in-residence at the newly established TV Lab, would present his work as part of The Television Show. The Negro and the American Promise was directed by Fred Barzyk, a young, Boston-based producer who would go on to become an important figure in the development of artists’ television. At WGBH he produced a number of groundbreaking programs, including The Medium Is the Medium () and VanDerBeek’s Violence Sonata. In  he returned briefly to Channel  to direct The Television Show. Exploring these coincidences provides a view of the experimentation undertaken in the transition from educational to public television. Violence Sonata offers a rare example of an attempt to synthesize the aims of public interest programming and artists’ television at a moment when both forms felt ripe for reinvention. This chapter looks at the development of VanDerBeek’s experimental two-channel “information concert” within Public Television/Nervous System


the broader context of public television’s emergent self-understanding to ask how the work intersected with and reframed the mandates of public broadcasting that were taking shape during this period. What Educational TV Should Do The Negro and the American Promise aired on educational stations across the nation as a one-hour special on June , . The segment featuring Baldwin had, however, already made headlines weeks earlier, when the show’s producer arranged to broadcast it just days after it was recorded. Jack Gould, the television critic for the New York Times, praised the decision, arguing that it “pointed the way to a solution of what educational TV should do on the air.” He described the interview with Baldwin as “an unforgettable half-hour” of television and declared, “Let the new medium curb the esoteric and pedantic consideration of today’s overriding issues . . . and find the larger excitement and more meaningful education that lies in coming to grips with reality.”⁴ The exclusive interview with Baldwin was recorded immediately following a tense meeting with the US attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, on May , . Two days earlier, Baldwin had sent Kennedy a telegram criticizing the administration’s response to Commissioner Bull Connor’s use of attack dogs and fire hoses against civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama, during a nonviolent protest led by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Kennedy invited Baldwin to discuss the matter and asked him to invite other prominent members of the Black community to join the conversation. On short notice, Baldwin convened a group that included Clark, as well as Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne, Clarence Benjamin Jones, an attorney and advisor to King, and Jerome Smith, a young activist and Freedom Rider. In Gould’s view, the timely broadcast of Baldwin’s interview had “underscored the inadequacy of the [commercial] networks” in covering this significant event within the context of the civil rights movement. Kennedy had hoped to focus on what he perceived as the failure of the mainstream civil rights movement to stem the tide of unrest in northern cities. For that reason, he did not invite King or leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League. He led off the meeting by recounting everything he and the president, his brother John F. Kennedy, had already done to aid the civil rights struggle, expressing concern that any further support might impact the upcoming election. Having set the terms for the conversation, he pressed 120

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his guests to explain the growing appeal of Malcolm X and the Black Muslim movement among disaffected Black youth. The youngest member of the group, Smith, then twenty-four years old, was silent as the discussion got underway. Finally, exasperated, he pointed out that the real threat to white America was not the Black Muslims but, rather, advocates of nonviolence like himself, who were starting to lose hope. As a Freedom Rider and organizer with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Smith had endured crippling beatings from Southern segregationists. His patience and his pacifism, he told Kennedy, were wearing thin. The attorney general was shocked when Smith explained that he, and other young men like him, would not be willing to fight for America abroad as long as their own liberties at home could not be guaranteed. Though the other attendees at the meeting vigorously defended Smith, after three long hours of discussion they left feeling Kennedy had not heard or adequately addressed their concerns.⁵ Because the meeting had gone on longer than anticipated, Baldwin and Clark arrived late to the television studio for the taping. Baldwin was still shaken with frustration. At the start of the interview, he confesses, “My mind is someplace else.” The interview aired four days later with an introduction explaining what had happened in the meeting with Kennedy prior to the recording. Gould found himself moved by Baldwin’s candor under the circumstances. In his review for the New York Times, he observed, “Moral equivocation and legalistic humbug on the issue of segregation were shattered in the eloquence, passion and perspective of Mr. Baldwin’s pleas that liberation of subjected people should begin in the United States, that time had run out on whites who thought fellow citizens would everlastingly negotiate on the size of their cage.” Gould praised Clark for allowing his guest “to say what he wished in the way he wished.” “Mercifully,” he remarked, Baldwin was spared “the irritating cross examination technique of Meet the Press, which thwarts sensible elicitation of an individual’s thoughts.”⁶ For Gould, Baldwin’s on-air appearance demonstrated the powerful effects of television as a medium. “Ever since the introduction of television, it has been self-evident that the searching camera and the intimacy of the screen at home can reach into the mind’s inner recesses in a manner different from any other medium.” However, the effects the critic attributes to the medium of television itself had as much to with the powerful way Baldwin used the occasion to address white viewers directly: I think that one has got to find some way of putting the present administration of this country on the spot. One has got to force, somehow, from Public Television/Nervous System


Washington, a moral commitment, not to the Negro people, but to the life of this country. It doesn’t matter any longer, and I’m speaking for myself, for Jimmy Baldwin, and I think I’m speaking for a great many Negroes too. It doesn’t matter any longer what you do to me; you can put me in jail, you can kill me. By the time I was , you’d done everything that you could do to me. The problem now is, how are you going to save yourselves?⁷

Gould concluded his review by observing that when Baldwin “starkly challenged members of the audience to put humanity before his color or theirs,” he produced “a moment of truth that did not end with the program.” Baldwin’s interview was rebroadcast as part of The Negro and the American Promise, alongside Clark’s interviews with King and Malcolm X, just two months before King gave his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. While King’s appearance on The Negro and the American Promise was overshadowed by the press’s attention to Baldwin’s affecting interview, he and other leaders of the civil rights movement had already demonstrated television’s effectiveness as a political tool. As media historian Sasha Torres notes, “during and after Birmingham, King and others developed publicity techniques that placed the press, and particularly television, at the center of the organization’s planning and strategies.”⁸ Campaigns for civil rights staged in Birmingham, and later Selma, were organized by King and other leaders of the movement with the networks in mind, and generated visually dramatic, narratively coherent stories. The spectacle of segregationist violence against peaceful demonstrators helped garner support for their cause, something impassioned rhetoric could not accomplish on its own. At the same time, ongoing coverage of the civil rights movement lent commercial television news an air of drama and prestige that it greatly needed, as the networks sought to expand their influence and secure their national standing. In  King took a strong stand against the escalation of American military intervention in Vietnam. Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the previous year, he was taken aback by the criticism he received in the press for expressing his views. Afterward, fearing he might jeopardize his work on behalf of civil rights, he refrained from taking an active role in the peace movement. In April  King publicly reiterated his antiwar position in a speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City.⁹ Declaring, “My conscience leaves me no other choice,” he described the war’s devastating impact on both America’s poor and the people of Vietnam. The war abroad was not only unjust, he argued, it was also 122

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drawing resources away from the War on Poverty at home. King’s speech helped lay the groundwork for a new campaign focused on alleviating economic hardship for all Americans, which he framed as a shift from reform to revolution.¹⁰ After the Riverside speech, editorials in the New York Times and elsewhere again criticized King for diverting attention from the civil rights struggle. The Times editorial, entitled “Dr. King’s Error,” insisted that the war in Vietnam and poverty at home were unrelated issues.¹¹ On network television, support for King drifted toward sensational interest in his newfound radicalism. Producers for the CBS program Face the Nation told him, “Your new involvement in the peace movement in addition to civil rights certainly places you at the vortex of the conflicting forces in our society and makes your views of increasing importance for everyone.”¹² How would public television, recently established by the Public Broadcasting Act of , function within such a vortex of conflicting forces? Calls for a public broadcasting service first emerged in response to commercial broadcasters’ failure to develop the educational potential of television. Viewers distracted by the “vast wasteland” of mindless entertainment were likely to succumb to political apathy and disengage entirely from civic life, critics argued. But as public television moved closer to becoming a reality in , the nature of these concerns changed. The social unrest of the period, urban uprisings and antiwar protests, fed a fresh wave of alarm about threats to democracy and order. Advocates for public television, including philanthropic foundations, policy makers, and bureaucrats, came together around a new shared interest in “public television’s capacity to address angry and disenfranchised populations, mediate bitter conflicts, and restore social order.”¹³ Public television’s supporters now framed its mandate in terms of fostering better-educated citizens who would choose reasoned debate over violent protest to express their beliefs, implicitly endorsing a model based on the bourgeois public sphere as theorized by Jürgen Habermas, and later critiqued as exclusionary by feminist and queer scholars, among others.¹⁴ WGBH’s The Negro and the American Promise offered one model for this kind of public interest programing. Under the shadow of police violence against peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham and Alabama governor George Wallace’s defiant stance—“segregation forever”—the program addressed the principles of nonviolence as a contested political issue worthy of extended discussion. After King’s assassination in , the threat of violence in the streets became a question of immediate crisis management. Something other than an extended discourse on protest tactics would be Public Television/Nervous System


required to reach people in distress. Violence Sonata attempted to mediate between these two extremes, treating violence as an ongoing crisis to be managed by way of media feedback as “an integrated part of responding to the problems and confrontations of our time.”¹⁵ Violence Sonata, like The Negro and the American Promise, took the form of an hour-long broadcast structured around three segments of dialogue. Afterward, VanDerBeek invited the live studio audience to participate in an additional thirty-minute discussion, which he described as “a thrash-out” to underscore the program’s unruly approach to media therapy. While VanDerBeek’s aims may have been broadly aligned with similar efforts to use public television to cultivate more engaged citizens, his methods were not. Guidelines for public television developed in  specified that the airwaves should not be turned over to “a cacophony of angry voices,” stipulating that public television would mediate conflicts and restore reason to democracy by way of objectivity and expertise.¹⁶ Violence Sonata’s experiment with information feedback as a means “to balance the senses” flouted these dictates entirely.¹⁷ King and other civil rights leaders developed strategies for exploiting television as a political tool, focusing national attention on their struggle through nonviolent direct actions that yielded highly televisual and emotionally resonant scenes of violent counterattack. VanDerBeek, by contrast, sought to test television’s capacity to mediate violence directly. In this regard, Violence Sonata was aligned with the project of developing “post-political solutions to cultural problems,” summed up by Michael Shamberg in Guerrilla Television as the difference between “politicizing people with mass-TV” and working “to media-ize people against it.”¹⁸ In other words, rather than pursuing the tactics developed by leaders of the civil rights movement, Shamberg imagined a self-correcting process that would counter the massifying effects of media and, in doing so, enact social change directly. While both VanDerBeek and Shamberg, writing on behalf of Raindance, sought to create more sustainable, cybernetic uses of media than conventional broadcast television would allow, VanDerBeek, as Gloria Sutton points out, was “not invested in the same mode of ‘resistance’ represented by the Raindance Corporation’s efforts to fight media with media, so to speak.”¹⁹ For Raindance, resistance entailed introducing new forms of self-representation as feedback into a media environment seen as lacking in diversity. By contrast, Violence Sonata used feedback to address social conflict born of miscommunication. For VanDerBeek, technology was both the cause of the problem and the potential solution. The experi124

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mental broadcast he staged at WGBH grew out a long-standing interest in media environments saturated with audiovisual information. Unlike other artists of his generation preoccupied with visions of more radically open channels, gained through guerrilla tactics or otherwise, VanDerBeek was concerned instead with how to manage vast amounts of information that could no longer be avoided.²⁰ A Juxtaposed and Simultaneous World In the decade preceding the production of Violence Sonata, VanDerBeek’s approach to technological mediation evolved as he carved out a role for himself both inside and beyond the commercial television studio. In  VanDerBeek published a visual essay-collage in Film Quarterly entitled “The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground.” The essay begins with a lament: “The most revolutionary art form of our time is in the hands of entertainment merchants, stars, manufacturers. The artist is preposterously cut off from the tools of production.” Alongside film stills and statements by fellow underground filmmakers, VanDerBeek offered the following reflections on film as “an art in evolution”: It is possible that after nearly  years of art that has been preoccupied with artificial realism (growing directly out of the theory of perspective and its effect on the senses) the preoccupation has at last reached its ultimate form in photography and in particular motion photography. It is part of the interesting intrigue of art that at this same juncture in the crossroads of art, with the perfection of a means to exactly capture perspective and realism, that the artist’s visions are turning more to his interior, and in a sense to an infinite exterior, abandoning the logics of aesthetics, springing full blown into a juxtaposed and simultaneous world that ignores the one-point-perspective mind, the one-pointperspective lens.²¹

Four years later, VanDerBeek devised a surprisingly direct strategy for gaining access to new technology that would enable him to leave the “onepoint-perspective lens” behind. In  a letter arrived at CBS headquarters addressed to the network’s chairman, William S. Paley. It read simply: “Dear Mr. Paley, it’s about time you made me artist-in-residence at CBS, yours truly, Stan VanDerBeek.” Though he had trained as a painter at Black Mountain College and Cooper Union, by  VanDerBeek was known primarily for his antic animated Public Television/Nervous System


films. Not long after penning this note, he found himself sitting across the desk from Paley in a corner office high above Sixth Avenue. The meeting lasted all of fifteen minutes, and as VanDerBeek remembers it, the famously remote executive never once took his eyes off a row of four television monitors mounted on the wall across the room. The network had no “artist-in-residence” program at the time. Nevertheless, VanDerBeek convinced Paley to grant him access to the network’s studios, albeit without the official title. While at CBS, VanDerBeek made use of the network’s vast resources to bring his vision of “a juxtaposed and simultaneous world” to the screen. VanDerBeek had been employed at CBS a decade earlier as a set designer and animator on the children’s program Winky Dink and You. While there, he developed many of the cutout animation techniques that appear in his early films.²² He was fired from the job before the show went off the air in , but for a time he continued to sneak back into the studio to work on his own films after hours.²³ In  VanDerBeek began teaching animation at Columbia University. The following year he was awarded a coveted Ford Foundation grant.²⁴ This newfound recognition did not, however, translate directly into access to the resources of the television studio that he had once enjoyed.²⁵ In  state-of-the-art video equipment was still essentially inaccessible to artists like VanDerBeek, who was eager to try his hand at the innovative editing techniques video made possible.²⁶ With the assistance of a few studio engineers, he began to work on the short video collage that became Panels for the Walls of the World, completed as an eight-minute, black-and-white video in .²⁷ In addition to accessing cutting-edge technology, VanDerBeek had another motive for returning to CBS: he was also hoping to raid the network vaults, “groaning,” as he put it, “with all this old junk newsreel stuff.”²⁸ Panels for the Walls of the World pictures a world of stunts, dance-athons, explosions, circus acts, and military spectacles—anything and everything that might catch the eye of a newsreel cameraman. Videographic transitions such as dissolves, mattes, and wipes divide the screen so that unrelated scenes bump up against and sometimes bleed into each other. The work is punctuated by an audio track of political sound bites, surf music, and rudely comedic effects. VanDerBeek worked with six film loops to create three variations of the piece, but he saw immediately that the possibilities were endless. With more time, he said, he could have made fifty variations. The real premise of the work, he explained later, was that it could go on forever.²⁹ 126

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Despite the new formal possibilities afforded by video, Panels for the Walls of the World has a distinctly anachronistic feel. It marries new video technology to outmoded film footage. VanDerBeek’s embrace of these “junk” images violates the news values that reigned supreme at commercial broadcast networks in the mid-s. Offering timely coverage of major news stories generated prestige that could be transformed directly into increased advertising revenue, a strategy pursued nowhere more successfully than at CBS.³⁰ While radio could cover events halfway across the world as soon as they unfolded, in the first years of television, network news bureaus were poorly equipped to cover breaking international news. TV cameras were unwieldy. Signal strength presented another constraint. Broadcast television used frequencies with very short ranges when picked up by set-top rabbit-ear antennas. As a result, television in these years tended to focus on local news. When films of foreign events appeared, they reported news that was typically a few days old, since film had to be airlifted and delivered physically to stations. CBS continued to rely on newsreel companies to provide these images until .³¹ VanDerBeek produced Panels for the Walls of the World at a moment when up-to-the-minute coverage of distant events was finally becoming a real possibility for television news. In July  live images were transmitted by satellite across the Atlantic for the first time.³² The following year, television provided news to millions of people all over the world of President Kennedy’s assassination. Panels for the Walls of the World exaggerates television’s capacity to offer worldwide coverage, while at the same time imagining a world where the timeliness of the news has ceased to matter. VanDerBeek’s video opens with the roar of an engine. A small, indistinct landscape appears framed in black. As it expands to fill the screen, a man in a harness with knees tucked up braces himself and is suddenly lifted into the air. A parachute opens, protecting him in his rapid ascent. What looks, at first glance, like a trick of reverse animation is actually an operation orchestrated to demonstrate how a soldier might be recovered from difficult terrain. Once off the ground, however, the figure floats perilously close to an atomic blast, an effect produced by way of videographic superimposition. With this dissolve, the last remnants of narrative structure in Panels for the Walls of the World begin to fade away. The familiar voice of President Kennedy cuts in to make an announcement but is drowned out by a jeering crowd. Marilyn Monroe appears in paparazzi shots superimposed over a pair of rough, work-worn hands. These icons display none of the cool disinterestness of Pop art. Instead, they act as Public Television/Nervous System


quickening agents—like the blooming mushroom cloud, they send the film pinwheeling into a manic, destructive spin. In Panels for the Walls of the World, VanDerBeek composes fragments of events into evocative sequences that nonetheless fail to generate narrative coherence. Split screens, wipes, and other transitions undermine the feeling of time progressing. Everything that has happened appears to be happening again, all at once. Nothing is timely, because every record of the past is accessible simultaneously. The structure of the work allows for any combination of sensory elements to appear on-screen. At the same time, its aleatory associations remain haunted by the persistence of the ground plane. Scenes of the earth from a multitude of perspectives suggest the physical and emotional demands of adjusting to this expanded perspective. During the title sequence, the screen divides into three parts. Dancers twist and twitch while a circus strong man demonstrates his brawn. In the upper left corner, the ground of this increasingly madcap world is tilled by machines and surveyed from above through an airplane window. The tone of VanDerBeek’s work is as disorienting as its wild shifts in perspective and scale. Panels for the Walls of the World registers the psychic costs of inhabiting a radically expanded sensorium as feelings of suspension, loss of agency, and mania. Equivocal affects abound: the work is simultaneously fun and unfun; silly and horrific; irreverent, rude, yet utterly serious and overwrought.³³ From Experience Machine to Nervous System After lobbying Paley for access to the network’s studios in , VanDerBeek published “Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal and Manifesto.”³⁴ The proposal envisioned a worldwide distribution network of theaters and image libraries designed specifically for artists, a proposal perhaps inspired by the limited access to the means of production and distribution he was granted at CBS. For VanDerBeek, however, the stakes extended beyond the issue of autonomy from corporate control. “It is imperative,” he writes, “that we quickly find some way for the entire level of world human understanding to rise to a new human scale. This scale is the world.” He called upon artists to invent a “new world language” for use within an “experience machine” designed as an educational tool for the senses, a means to counter the effects of “emotional-sociological comprehension” outdistanced by technology.³⁵ VanDerBeek’s proposal for the Culture Intercom was born of Cold War anxiety about communication break128

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ing down between political superpowers.³⁶ With the threat of mutually assured destruction looming, technology now placed what VanDerBeek described as the “logical fulcrum of man’s intelligence” at such a distance that it was no longer possible to “judge or estimate the results” of one’s acts before committing them.³⁷ By the time he published the Culture Intercom essay, VanDerBeek was already at work on a prototype for the experience machine his text describes. He called this dome-shaped theater, outfitted for multiprojector screening events, the Movie-Drome. VanDerBeek envisioned the Movie-Drome as a new kind of exhibition space and image library that would function as a node in a worldwide network of similarly constructed structures, providing an alternative to both commercial and educational television networks. Inside VanDerBeek’s experience machine, viewers would encounter an array of ever-shifting image constellations created with material stored and transferred from a wide variety of sources, including motion pictures, television, computers, and videotape (fig. .). As an environmental interface, the Movie-Drome was designed as a space that would allow each viewer to keep the enormous

. Stan VanDerBeek, Movie-Drome Design-In, Central Park, New York, NY, .

© Estate of Bob Hanson. Courtesy Stan VanDerBeek Archive. Public Television/Nervous System


scale of human life in view, while continuing “to measure, grow, and keep in touch with oneself.”³⁸ VanDerBeek built the Movie-Drome in Stony Point, New York, at an artist’s colony called the Gate-Hill Co-op, or “The Land,” where he lived and worked among friends and colleagues from his days at Black Mountain College, including John Cage.³⁹ Though some scholars have compared the Movie-Drome to the geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller (another influential figure at Black Mountain), the structure has more in common with the aluminum Dymaxion House, which Fuller designed for mass production by the aeronautics industry. Like Fuller, VanDerBeek chose to work with prefabricated materials, hoping his design would one day be easily replicated and disseminated throughout the world. He repurposed the thirty-one-foot dome for his theater from a mail-order grain silo kit (fig. .). This strange vessel—part storage bin, part airplane—contained all the material and equipment needed to project a myriad of images at high speed, to achieve what the artist called “visual velocity.”⁴⁰ During screenings inside the Movie-Drome, viewers would lie down with their feet toward the center of the room while images from multiple projection sources spread out across the surface of the dome. VanDerBeek’s ideal viewer would have William Paley’s knack for taking in material from multiple channels simultaneously. But whereas Paley sat upright

. Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome being built, Stony Point, NY, –.

Courtesy Stan VanDerBeek Archive. 130

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at his desk at CBS headquarters, like Dr. Strangelove at the Strategic Air Command, as Jud Yalkut once joked in an interview with VanDerBeek, viewers inside the Movie-Drome would stretch out on their backs in order to view a full hemisphere’s worth of projected images.⁴¹ The MovieDrome offered a glimpse of a space that was infinitely modular, an idea the artist explored through videographic means in Panels for the Walls of the World. Whereas his video collage synthesized multiple inputs into a single channel, the Movie-Drome immersed the viewer in a multichannel environment of potential associations and connections. Inside the MovieDrome, VanDerBeek hoped viewers would begin to develop new habits of perception that would allow them to take in and make sense of multiple, simultaneous inputs of audio and visual information. VanDerBeek’s ambitions were aligned with, and likely influenced by, a number of midcentury projects developed to retrain perception, driven by imperatives often articulated in both psychic and political terms. At the Bauhaus in the s, László Moholy-Nagy had begun to stress the need to integrate reason and the senses in the service of developing “a plan of life which places the individual rightly within his community.”⁴² This pedagogical imperative influenced the curriculum and philosophy of education that VanDerBeek encountered at Black Mountain College, which became a refuge for many members of the Bauhaus forced to leave Europe during the buildup to World War II. During this period, calls for a reeducation of the senses in the United States were framed in even more explicitly political terms. In  the influential anthropologist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson called upon intellectual and political leaders to find ways to train the “apperceptive habits” of citizens to encourage democratic forms of free will and social tolerance as a means for confronting the rising tide of fascism.⁴³ The language of VanDerBeek’s Culture Intercom essay also closely echoes György Kepes’s widely read treatise The Language of Vision, first published in .⁴⁴ Kepes advocated for a pedagogy of perception that would attune the senses to forms, patterns, and structures, which he saw as especially important given the rise of technological access to “phases of the visible world which were previously too small, too fast, too large, or too slow for us to comprehend.” Kepes was concerned with problems in design and perception, how to “sustain man with visions of felt order.” “To function in his fullest scope,” Kepes wrote, “man must restore the unity of his experiences so that he can register sensory, emotional, and intellectual dimensions of the present as an indivisible whole.”⁴⁵ Both he and  VanDerBeek were interested in emotional perception. Kepes’s priPublic Television/Nervous System


mary focus was on urban space, the question of how to create the feeling of order in the lived world. VanDerBeek adapted this notion of visual language to the realm of mediated experience. In doing so, he left behind the older artist’s concern with the production of organic wholeness. Instead of integration and unity, VanDerBeek emphasized the principles of variation, extension, and exchange.⁴⁶ VanDerBeek described his ambitions for the Movie-Drome as “outrageously encyclopedic.” He conceived these screenings as “newsreels of dreams” or “information concerts.” The Movie-Drome brought news footage into contact with the other kinds of material during live projection performances: hand-drawn figures, processed video of dancers, and the cut-up animations that had first garnered VanDerBeek recognition as a filmmaker. In an essay published in , VanDerBeek reflected, “We have turned a corner with films and TV, images can now be treated much the way that music is . . . endlessly variable and dynamic . . . stored, and in motion . . . for instant recall.”⁴⁷ In  VanDerBeek’s experiments in multiple projection captured the imagination of Marshall McLuhan, who compared the Movie-Drome to a “newspaper where umpteen news stories come at you without any connection and without connected themes.”⁴⁸ As Judith Rodenbeck notes, the newspaper served as an important conceptual model for many postwar artists.⁴⁹ She compares the formal function of the newspaper to both a scrap heap and a storehouse where the rigid conventions of the print format—headlines, captions, columns—bring utterly incommensurate events into relationships of equivalence. Rodenbeck ascribes “a peculiar kind of neutrality” to postwar art’s adoption of the newspaper as a model for aleatory art practices. VanDerBeek’s repurposed grain silo translated these metaphors— the storehouse and the scrap heap—into architectural form. The affects generated within this space, however, tended to evoke feelings that were more equivocal than neutral. Though the audiovisual mix may have proved unsettling at times, it was the relations between viewers sprawled out under the curved roof that remained peculiarly neutral. The MovieDrome paired sociability down to a conceptually abstract, if sensuously experienced minimum. Sprawled out on the floor, connections between each viewer mirrored the nonhierarchical arrangements between images spread out across the dome’s curved interior. Viewers navigated distinct but structurally equivalent pathways from one projected image to the next. VanDerBeek imagined that this experience would heighten each viewer’s awareness of other viewers engaged in the same process nearby. This was 132

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the crux of his claim that as an experience machine, the Culture Intercom would enable each member of its audience to navigate a world of information while remaining in touch with herself and aware of her place among others inside a shared environment.⁵⁰ The reclining audience under VanDerBeek’s domed projection screen was no longer the unified “we” projected by single-channel broadcast media. Each individual actively synthesized simultaneously given audiovisual elements from an array of sources. Though VanDerBeek placed responsibility on the viewer to coordinate and make sense of her visual experience, he did not completely abdicate control over the performance. He remained at the margins of the viewer’s field of vision, dashing between projectors and slide machines to keep the images flowing.⁵¹ In this sense, he occupied the role of the “managerial figure” within an exhibition format that Fred Turner has defined as “the democratic surround.” Inside such an environment, viewers exercise choices that allow for free associations between inputs, while remaining part of a network of other similarly constituted subjects. As Turner notes, the control exercised by the artist as manager within such a space enables people to “to choose their experiences, but only from a menu written by experts.”⁵² Though VanDerBeek hoped the Movie-Drome would allow for forms of communication foreclosed by television’s mass address, in practice it generated a structure of potential exchange reduced to an abstract set of formal arrangements. VanDerBeek’s vision for the Movie-Drome involved moving beyond passive forms of reception to incorporate collective forms of exchange. He described the potential for interactions between different local Movie-Drome audiences facilitated via satellite links. He did not, however, expect that these exchanges would be collaboratively produced; rather, he proposed that each Movie-Drome have its own artistin-residence, whose role it would be to “orchestrate the image material.” VanDerBeek left the details of this arrangement unspecified, suggesting that he had not yet resolved the conflict between his role in singlehandedly staging the elaborate information concerts and his desire to engender forms of participation and communication foreclosed by television’s unidirectional mass address.⁵³ By  the dream of the Movie-Drome was at an impasse. VanDerBeek was fatigued by the technical difficulties of working with multiple projectors and frustrated by the fact that after “ten years of scraping around and a terrific physical effort—hand-building the dome and the projectors and wiring the place up”—people often fell asleep minutes into the show.⁵⁴ In the end, the Movie-Drome offered viewers an experience that was not Public Television/Nervous System


so different from passively watching television, switching from channel to channel. In order to make the leap from multichannel projection to live televised feedback, VanDerBeek would have to leave the Movie-Drome behind for a communication network where relations could be enacted imaginatively and conflicts otherwise foreclosed by the architecture of the Movie-Drome could be brought to the fore. Anti-TV In  VanDerBeek moved to Boston to become an official artist-inresidence at WGBH. At the time WGBH was emerging as an important center of artists’ television. In March of that year, it broadcast The Medium Is the Medium (), which included work by Nam June Paik (the first artist-in-residence at WGBH), Aldo Tambellini, and Allan Kaprow, among others.⁵⁵ VanDerBeek arrived with an ambitious plan to stage an “information concert” that would make use of all the communication networks— television, print, telephone—at his disposal.⁵⁶ Violence Sonata was broadcast on January , , on two channels simultaneously, both operated by WGBH. Channel  showed what VanDerBeek considered the “primary material,” while Channel  (on the UHF dial) aired what he described as “a collection of thematic comments.”⁵⁷ Viewers could switch back and forth at their discretion, but VanDerBeek encouraged them to join with their neighbors to watch the program on both channels at once by placing two televisions side by side. Violence Sonata subjected its audience to what the critic Jill Johnston described as an “eye shattering” montage.⁵⁸ It mixed live feed from the studio with prerecorded scenes and film collages produced specifically for the broadcast. Cream-pie fights and comic-book battles appeared alongside newsreel footage of the Watts riots, Klan rallies, and mushroom clouds. VanDerBeek used various means to create an emotionally charged atmosphere inside the television studio even before the program began. In his role as the producer of Violence Sonata, Fred Barzyk recounts inviting participants from “as many groups in the Boston area as possible who had a bone to pick. Black Panthers, free sex advocates, radical politicians, hippies, white supremacists, you name it, we found them.”⁵⁹ Ultimately a hundred people showed up to the studio for the live broadcast event. Upon their arrival, they were treated to a “a pre-program happening” where everyone was lined up and fingerprinted as police dogs growled nearby.⁶⁰ From there, things only got more nerve-racking. Gunshots rang out, a karate fight erupted, and someone hacked up a piano with 134

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an ax. The idea was to foster an environment of antagonism and conflict. As VanDerBeek explained, “The basic theory behind it is that rather than actually work out your physical acts of aggression in one way or another, either on a home level or a street level, on some nation-wide level, you do it in some form of play.”⁶¹ The hour-long program was divided into three sections—“Man,” “Man/ Woman,” “Man/Man”—each followed by an opportunity for viewers to engage in discussion. As the program guide explained, “Between each of the three screen acts of this collision-collage, questions will be put to home viewers and they will be able to telephone comments to the three studio panelists.”⁶² After the first segment, viewers were asked to respond to the question “Can man communicate?” Viewers at home were encouraged to call in with the option to automatically register a yes or no vote, or to talk to an operator in the studio.⁶³ This proposition, when it was announced, elicited laughter from the studio audience, registering the absurdity of answering this question by way of a call-in vote. The first member of the studio audience to respond was a woman who identified herself as a member of Bread and Roses, a women’s liberation organization established in . She took issue with the question, insisting that violence has more to do with power than communication. Rather than dispute or affirm the validity of her critique, Don Fouser, the facilitator of the forum, politely thanked her and continued to collect more audience feedback.⁶⁴ Each contribution from a member of the studio audience was accepted without contest and without any further engagement. As the program progressed, live audio from viewers calling the studio was incorporated into the sound mix. At random intervals, these audio signals began to drown out the speakers on-screen. The phone conversations were more conventionally communicative than the exchanges taking place within the open forum. Operators listened carefully and attempted to connect with the mostly disgruntled callers. As the program continued, these exchanges became harder to follow as they cut in and out of the audiovisual mix (fig. .). While some callers engaged in earnest discussion about violence, others complained about the format of the program, which they described as disorienting and confusing. One remarked that it left him feeling more violent than before, while others confessed to feeling nothing at all. Reviews in the local papers echoed these responses. One critic observed, “It was a fragmented, disorganized, noisy, weird and even mindless offering in which the overwhelming technique all but obliterated whatever it was trying to say.  .  .  . The audience would have profited more from viewing Public Television/Nervous System


. Stan VanDerBeek, Violence Sonata,  (video still). Multichannel video, live broadcast, performance, color, sound,  minutes. © Estate of Stan VanDerBeek. All rights reserved.

[the recently broadcast documentary] Savage Roots [which] dealt with various aspects of human violence in a clear, organized and intelligent fashion.” ⁶⁵ Another complained, “Obscenities were shouted. The president was insulted. People argued violently and unreasonably. Radicalism ran rampant.”⁶⁶ After the broadcast, VanDerBeek himself expressed ambivalence about what the work had achieved. In a memo to the staff of WGBH he confessed, “I am of course disappointed in many ways. The concept I tried to explore was in the large sense anti-TV, as I joked about it, and I do not think the station really to this moment is aware of just what it was I was trying to do.”⁶⁷ In practice, Violence Sonata effectively estranged many of the familiar civic functions and formats associated with noncommercial television: the rational discussion of the public forum, the pedagogical aims of the social-issue documentary, the in-depth analysis of current events on public affairs programs, and even the elevation of taste through exposure to the fine arts. VanDerBeek’s account of Violence Sonata as “anti-TV” points to the way the work makes the protocols of public broadcasting newly legible. Ultimately, many viewers found the violation of these conventions more shocking than the program’s “eye shattering montage.” 136

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In the early days of public broadcasting, there were other attempts to develop programs designed to provoke disputes for the camera by pitting representatives of one social group or political position against another with the aim of defusing “pent-up tensions.”⁶⁸ Ultimately, however, this approach was short-lived, and formats that modeled appropriate behavior for rational debate were embraced as the norm. As Laurie Ouellette argues, “the televised display of [reasoned] process” came to define the “public interest logic” of such programs.⁶⁹ However, “the effort to enlist viewers in the productive nonviolent resolution of conflicts was also a template for enlightened citizenship that excluded emotionally and bodily invested forms of political expression and participation, like women’s consciousness-raising groups, union meetings, strikes, consumer boycotts, and mass protests.”⁷⁰ Early supporters of public television understood emotion as an impediment to reasoned debate and the cultivation of expertise, and therefore as a threat to engaged citizenship. Though VanDerBeek framed the social upheaval of the era as a crisis of communication where emotion was something to be managed, he had less faith in the political efficacy of rational discourse. He staged Violence Sonata as a media event designed to provoke conflict, not for its own sake but as part of “a sensitizing process.” As he explained, “There is something that happens to you at some new level of emotional awareness . . . by overstimulating or overloading, you then see something new.”⁷¹ Unlike broadcasters who sought to keep emotion in check, VanDerBeek attempted to “manage” emotion by stirring it up and then folding the responses it generated back into the shared media environment. Open conflict between members of the audience was never the point. The format of the forum prevented people from really speaking to one another. Instead, their responses, impassioned or simply critical, were layered into a mix of other distressing audiovisual signals, including images of many different forms of violence. As VanDerBeek envisioned it, the feedback process would allow the collective “media nervous system” to respond and readjust in turn. Treating the affectively charged and agitated responses he elicited from viewers as inputs or signals, the artist created an analogy between channeling broadcast signals and managing emotion. VanDerBeek imagined this process as a means for therapeutically processing collectively expressed aggression and thereby allowing attention to take in “something new.” In practice, however, the densely layered audiovisual outputs often simply overwhelmed and shut viewers down, just as the Movie-Drome had had the unintended effect of putting people to sleep. Public Television/Nervous System


By flaunting the protocols of public broadcasting, however, Violence Sonata called attention to the wide range of political expression that these protocols typically exclude. This is why critics complained about how people behaved rather than the substance of what they said, for example, pointing out that the show featured people shouting and arguing rather than a “clear” and “organized” account of violence. On the one hand, under these conditions, there was no way to have a conversation of any substance about the political significance of one view over another. On the other hand, the program demonstrated how the development of disciplinary protocols for public television already worked in exclusionary ways to circumscribe such conversations in advance. A Theatre of Life At the center of Violence Sonata, a long conversation between a white man and a Black woman stands out against the visual noise and audio feedback that characterizes much of the rest of the broadcast. When the segment begins, they are facing away from each other on either side of a split screen (fig. .). As it unfolds, they appear undressed, lying side by side in bed (fig.  .).⁷² The conversation proceeds awkwardly through unexpected shifts in tone and direction. The man and woman play lovers but are clearly uncertain about the status of their history and relationship. The woman teases and provokes, the man jokes back but also laughs nervously, as if he is not sure where the play-acting begins and ends. Man: You know me too well. Woman: I don’t know you at all. Man: Oh yes you do. You wouldn’t be lying here gabbing with me if you didn’t. Woman: Gabbing? Careful again. Man: Do you feel what I feel? Are you sort of feeling separate now? I mean do you feel like there’s something right there? Maybe that’s just my tension? Woman: Is it tension?

The man and the woman were both nonactors, people employed at the station who were recruited by VanDerBeek and Barzyk to perform in Violence Sonata on short notice. Their dialogue was improvised and recorded just prior to the broadcast, then mixed live with other audiovisual inputs during the program.⁷³ 138

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. Stan VanDerBeek, Violence Sonata,  (video still). Multichannel video, live

broadcast, performance, color, sound,  minutes. © Estate of Stan VanDerBeek. All rights reserved.

. Stan VanDerBeek, Violence Sonata,  (video still). Multichannel video, live

broadcast, performance, color, sound,  minutes. © Estate of Stan VanDerBeek. All rights reserved.

At one point, the conversation turns to the subject of the man’s parents. He tells her, “I’ve flown the coop,” and she responds, “But I have nothing to lose.” Then, to clarify her point, she explains, “I have no inheritance. I mean, my heredity follows me. It comes with me. I wear it.” The man responds, “Well, so do I. We’re the other way around.” To which the woman responds, “But yours is  .  .  . green.” While she has no monetary inheritance, her heredity as a woman of color follows her. His whiteness, on the other hand, continues to afford him material privilege, even after he’s “flown the coop.” Later as they discuss the possibility of moving to Europe together, the man effuses, “You make life more bearable . . . ,” to which she responds, “Bearable?” This exchange prompts her to ask, “What about our children? I have to bear them too you know. Are you willing to bear them?” This dialogue offers a striking contrast to the other forms of feedback layered into the audiovisual mix throughout the broadcast. Instead of overwhelming the senses, it heightens them, surprises with micro shifts in tone and affective response. The dynamic is complex: self-aware yet playful, open, and alive to the social differences that condition intimacy. VanDerBeek may have intended the exchange to convey the perils of miscommunication, but in practice it makes communication seem like something worth attending to carefully. During this sequence, electronic dissolves and iris effects reveal collaged material layered into the video mix, much of it reminiscent of the “old newsreel junk” that appears in Panels for the Walls of the World. Car chases, airplane crashes, and rocket launches evoke the “infinite exterior” expanded and imperiled through technological advances. In Panels for the Walls of the World, the single-channel video splits into distinct quadrants. Here multiple video feeds are revealed through iris effects and other forms of layering, which, as the program notes explain, included up to six separate inputs at one time.⁷⁴ Although Violence Sonata was produced as a two-channel broadcast, most viewers watched one or the other channel rather than viewing the program on side-by-side televisions, as VanDerBeek had envisioned. The signal interference that occurs throughout this sequence suggests the simultaneous presence of a second channel broadcasting visual material in concert with the first (and implies the copresence of an endless expanse of other channels across the dial). The layering of multiple video feeds does not, however, undo the curious impact of the scene. Some question of lived relation between the man and the woman continues to hang in the balance, even if only by what VanDerBeek calls elsewhere a “thread of verbs and nouns.”⁷⁵ As a result, 140

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each disruption of the video signal invites the viewer to tune in more carefully to the dialogue as it unfolds. Violence Sonata departs most radically from VanDerBeek’s previous experiments with channeling in this moment. While Panels for the Walls of the World and the Movie-Drome created endless arrays and combinations of interchangeable images, here something prevents the conversation between the man and the woman from receding into the flux of images that surround and interrupt it. In preparatory notes for Violence Sonata, VanDerBeek described the work as “a theatre of life in which we can all ‘play’ our role.”⁷⁶ Though each character is aware of the way they wear or inhabit the markers of their social identity, the terms of the relationship seem to be in a constant state of negotiation. These roles, therefore, are not entirely predetermined but must be mutually developed and enacted through play. Although the conversation was prerecorded, as an improvised dialogue it could also be described as “a theater of liveness” where artifice and lived experience rub up against one another, creating tension that sets this sequence apart from the rest of the program, and even from exchanges with viewers calling in that were broadcast live. A Delicately Tuned Instrument of Pure Communication Though VanDerBeek framed Violence Sonata as a work about violence in general and called the segment “Man/Woman,” the staging and casting of this provocative exchange pivots on the unspoken question of how race and violence intersect here, and on television more generally. Race also figures as an unacknowledged factor in the more scripted dialogue that follows during the third and final segment, “Man/Man.” There two men, one Black and the other white, wear transparent masks and, through videographic superimposition, appear as if facing one another. The white figure’s image is synthesized to further emphasize the visual contrast between them, but the overlay and other distortions also blur their features, which undoes the stability of each man’s bounded personhood. When the contrast effect is briefly inverted, what appeared dark on-screen momentarily registers as light, and vice versa (figs. . and .). The men read lines of text such as “we all live in fantastic realism” and “get a good grip on your comic strip.” The lines are spoken interchangeably, diminishing the sense of tension. The masks the men wear and their scripted, citational manner of speech distinguish this mode of play-acting from the improvised exchange between the man and woman in the previous segment of the program. Public Television/Nervous System


. Stan VanDerBeek, Violence Sonata,  (video still). Multichannel video, live

broadcast, performance, color, sound,  minutes. © Estate of Stan VanDerBeek. All rights reserved.

. Stan VanDerBeek, Violence Sonata,  (video still). Multichannel video, live

broadcast, performance, color, sound,  minutes. © Estate of Stan VanDerBeek. All rights reserved.

While neither exchange enacts a discourse about violence in any conventional sense, the casting in each case deploys racial difference to intensify an overall atmosphere of tension and conflict. In “Man/Man,” the interchangeability of the men’s masked and videographically manipulated faces, and the manner in which they deliver their lines, works to neutralize difference. In “Man/Woman,” the woman addresses the subject of difference openly. When the conversation turns to the question of what she must bear in the relationship, it feels like something more than reproduction is at stake. She says, “I have to bear them too you know.” In doing so, she calls attention to the way the conversation turns on how she also bears “the burden of liveness,” as José Muñoz describes the mandate to ceaselessly perform one’s own authenticity as a person of color.⁷⁷ This chapter opens with two other examples in which “the burden of liveness” figures in televised situations where violence is a pressing concern—the James Brown concert and the James Baldwin interview. Kenneth Clark’s postinterview assessment of Baldwin’s televised appearance emphasizes the burden he must bear in terms that echo Muñoz’s formulation: Each time I have talked with Baldwin, personally or publicly, I am left with feeling that he is a delicately tuned instrument of pure communication. The value of Baldwin’s role, and the burden which he cannot avoid, is that this skill be used to awaken the conscience of America.⁷⁸

Here Clark draws out something distinctive about the conditions under which Baldwin must perform his own authenticity in the moment. (With regard to “the burden of liveness,” that is what matters, not whether the performance is recorded or broadcast live.) The Negro and the American Promise situates Baldwin as a mediator. On the program, he occupies the space between the views expressed by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, in the sense that he is called upon to explain the appeal of Malcolm X’s views to Black youth disillusioned by the tactics of nonviolence (as he was in the meeting with the attorney general), without, however, assuming that he endorses these views. Baldwin also serves as a mediator between the Black community he is asked to represent and an audience assumed to be white, a situation he makes explicit in his direct address. Baldwin is not only called upon to perform himself for the entertainment or edification of others in The Negro and the American Promise, he must also deploy his authenticity as an instrument of communication to certify his right to speak on the behalf of others. Clark’s account of Baldwin Public Television/Nervous System


as “a delicately tuned instrument” positions him as both the source of the message and the means by which that message is skillfully channeled by way of performance. Baldwin received praise for his ability to convey the “excitement” and “meaningful education” that lies in “coming to grips with reality.” Clark’s comments register the enormous weight that comes with being called upon to authorize reality by way of the performance of self. In a different register, James Brown’s celebrated ability to perform his own emotional and physical exhaustion is exemplified by his dramatic use of a cape onstage. During Brown’s live shows, when it appeared that the singer could no longer go on, the emcee, Danny Ray, would drape the cape over Brown’s spent body. The routine varied, but in the end Brown would always dramatically rise again and toss it off before bringing the show to its climactic finish. In Boston, when Brown’s performance of this famous act was interrupted by the threat of police violence, he found himself suddenly thrust into a different role, where the imperative to perform live was compounded by the burden of communication. The moment made explicit the terms under which Brown was called upon to serve as a mediator, here speaking to a largely Black audience confronting a line of police officers readying themselves for a confrontation that threatened to spill out into the streets. In moments like these, as Sasha Torres has observed, “it’s not enough for television to be live: the medium needs as well to represent ‘authentic’ persons of color, stockpiling their liveness to be borrowed back in times of political or representational crisis.”⁷⁹ How, then, does the conversation between the man and the woman at the center of Violence Sonata differ from these examples? Within the conditions of this improvised exchange, the woman also bears the burden of liveness, but here she is able to turn and implicate the man in that burden as well. They are complete strangers but must address one another as intimates. Just as she is called upon by the situation to perform as herself, he must in turn perform himself. This is not to say that the burden is shared equally or diminished by the exchange, only that it has been made explicit. Neither participant in this exchange can be sure where the conversation will go, but when she asks what he is willing to bear, unlike the viewer Baldwin addresses, he must be ready to turn to her and respond. During this sequence, channeling functions differently than it does in the rest of Violence Sonata and in VanDerBeek’s prior experiments with single-channel video and multiprojection exhibition. In these other instances, channels carry audiovisual inputs that are assumed to be interchangeable and therefore structurally equal. The exchange between the man and the woman instead presents a situation where a relationship of 144

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structural inequality must be negotiated, where the burden to function as an instrument of communication is not simply assigned as a role and taken on as a given but, rather, is tested, tried, and even turned around. Though VanDerBeek expressed disappointment with Violence Sonata, the limitations of his “post-political” approach to media remained a blind spot. In an interview from  with Willard Van Dyke, then the director of the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art, VanDerBeek described the use of a single screen to tell “a fairly complicated story” as inadequate when “things are happening to us in our cultural milieu, in our daily lives, that are not one thing at a time, and we find we are dealing with a multiplicity of events”: It’s very much more complicated than the simple idea of things happening to you logically, one after another. . . . It is essential that we exchange ideas with each other. The problem now is that the whole world is shifting all its ideas and values very quickly. Whole cultures are shifting gears. We’re moving at a tremendous speed. . . . We must hold the world through this next period, which is an extremely delicately balanced nuclear-judgment time period. We must somehow find a way to talk to each other, to talk to ourselves and understand ourselves.⁸⁰

As an artist, his approach to the problem of perception was shaped by the Cold War threat of mutually assured destruction.⁸¹ Under these dire conditions, art became, for VanDerBeek, an essential means for learning to manage distress and conflict caused by new demands on attention, which he hoped, in turn, would improve humanity’s chances of survival.⁸² These concerns led to the development of the Movie-Drome as a machine for retraining perception. There, the potential exchangeability of any element inside the surround with any other element would mirror relations of structural equality and reversibility between viewers who gazed up at the ever-changing array of audiovisual constellations. At WGBH, however, VanDerBeek struggled to accommodate this project to an institutional context more preoccupied with modeling forms of political expression than with perception. His attempt to address violence at different scales, from the geopolitical to the personal, yielded an environment affectively charged by potential conflict but lacking in opportunities for political contestation and, as the woman from Bread and Roses observed, for posing questions of power. VanDerBeek frames violence as an effect of miscommunication exacerbated by media environments saturated with information. Violence Sonata begins by assuming that technolPublic Television/Nervous System


ogies that expand the scope of human perception, and with it the capacity for human destruction, have heightened the stakes of Cold War animus and continue to drive the senseless military destruction of Vietnam. Visually, through the use of “collision-collage,” the work also proposes that other forms of social and family strife are subject to these same conditions, particularly where matters of race and gender are at issue. Yet instead of asking viewer-participants to evaluate how, if at all, such disparate situations might be connected, the work provokes viewers to react to connections made for them, and then integrates their often-agitated responses back into the media-mix as feedback. VanDerBeek was not interested in using media to politicize people by reframing the conditions of political contestation, as, for example, King had done during his well-publicized speech at Riverside Church in , where he pointed out the structural relationship between the War in Vietnam and the War on Poverty and, in doing so, the possibility of forging alliances between economically disempowered Black and white Americans. With Violence Sonata, VanDerBeek instead anticipates the impulse, articulated by Michael Shamberg in Guerrilla Television, to seek “post-political solutions” to cultural problems. By embracing media’s capacity to manage tension (whether through the redirection of attention, the modulation of affect, or the creation of feedback) he attempts to redress directly the imbalance between the collective senses, which he presumes to be the source of all social and political distress. Violence Sonata aired just as Shamberg’s Raindance Corporation was beginning to explore the promise of “postpolitical” media. By testing television’s capacity to address social conflict in these terms, VanDerBeek not only anticipated the limitations of that project but demonstrated that whenever people are invited to cocreate a work, something unanticipated will happen. In this case, together they produced a work of anti-TV that underscores the difference between seeking media solutions for political problems and using media politically. Devorah Heitner offers an account of efforts to establish Black public affairs programming on public television after King’s assassination in  that provides important context for the experiment undertaken by VanDerBeek at WGBH and an example of what using media politically might look like in practice. One such program, Say Brother, appeared on the WGBH program schedule alongside VanDerBeek’s Violence Sonata in . Say Brother embraced a variety format capacious enough to include musical performances, documentary segments, and in-studio discussions of social and political issues of relevance to Black viewers.⁸³ By featuring segments on Black history, culture, and art, Heitner argues, Black public 146

Chapter Four

affairs programs cultivated a new audience for the Black Arts Movement and claimed that “history and culture are constitutive of Black humanity and achievement.” Say Brother provided a distinct alternative to more widely seen television programming that “marginalized, maligned, or ignored African American communities and pathologized Black cultures and Black families,” thus registering the pressing demand for more equitable representation on television.⁸⁴ Public affairs programs like Say Brother provided a venue for “internal debate in Black communities” about the relative merits of “armed revolution, electoral participation, economic selfhelp, cultural nationalism, community policing, affirmative action, collective agriculture, separatism, and other strategies.”⁸⁵ As Heitner observes, this debate made different approaches to Black liberation “visible and comprehensible” to wider audiences, both Black and non-Black. Furthermore, these conversations often incorporated modes of Black vernacular speech and verbal expression not heard elsewhere on public television, challenging many of the same norms that VanDerBeek performatively subverted in Violence Sonata. The fate of Say Brother demonstrates how these norms could be applied punitively in moments of heightened political conflict. In , after a successful first season, Say Brother’s producer, Ray Richardson, openly criticized WGBH management for failing to support the show and other robust oppositional programming relevant to Black audiences. In July  tensions between the staff of Say Brother and WGBH management came to a head when Richardson sent a television crew to cover an uprising against police violence in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a city about sixty miles from Boston, a conflict that resulted in the murder of a Black teenager, Lester Lima, by a white man, Ralph Brown, who fired shots into a crowd of protesters from his car. (Brown and the other men in the car were later acquitted by an all-white jury.) Say Brother aired interviews with residents of New Bedford angry about a host of structural issues that went beyond the particular incidents of violence highlighted by other media outlets’ coverage of the story. The people interviewed by Say Brother’s reporters described the displacement caused by so-called urban renewal initiatives and dysfunctional job training programs that did little to address widespread unemployment. They spoke frankly, sometimes peppering their speech with profanity. Richardson refused, on principle, to edit these interviews for the broadcast. The resulting violation of FCC regulations prompted WGBH to cancel Say Brother. After widespread public outcry and a well-organized campaign by the program’s staff, Say Brother was eventually reinstated but without Richardson at the helm. As a result, Public Television/Nervous System


most of the staff quit in protest. Say Brother remained on the air but with a new emphasis on national news, abandoning the focus on local politics that had helped establish its distinctive voice.⁸⁶ The conclusion turns to the question of how contemporary artists have taken up the historical legacy of programs like Say Brother, television that made different approaches to Black liberation visible and comprehensible, in the wake of recent struggles against anti-Black racism and police violence.


Chapter Four


TV Now?

Looking back at Black TV () from the perspective of , Aldo Tambellini writes, “The sixties have passed/recorded/ obliterated/stored/erased.”¹ In recent years, as curators and scholars have sought to establish precedents for contemporary art’s preoccupation with media as both subject matter and material, Tambellini’s work has received more attention, which in turn prompted the artist to revisit the preoccupations that shaped his work in the late s.² In  the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, presented a major retrospective of Tambellini’s work. The show restaged many of his experiments in film and video from the s and s, including a two-channel  mm projection of Black TV. As I discuss in this book’s introduction, Tambellini’s Black TV exemplifies efforts by artists and political filmmakers in the s to creatively disrupt images circulating as signals through broadcast networks in moments of social and political crisis. Today television is no longer a medium disseminated exclusively through broadcasting.³ Given the fact that moving images are now easily found and shared as streaming digital files, what makes the aesthetic strategies discussed in the previous chapters under the sign of “the channeled image” relevant to contemporary art? The centerpiece of Tambellini’s  retrospective was a new installation entitled Black Matters (), which revisited moving images recorded on both film and video in the early s that were never intended for broadcast. At first glance, Black

Matters would suggest that archival images, particularly those which have not been widely seen, have supplanted the significance of “channeled images” within much recent art.⁴ However, this presumes that channeled and archival images are mutually exclusive categories. Contemporary artists who repurpose familiar modes of televisual address, refilm the television screen, or make use of multichannel displays now often do so as a means of gesturing toward the historicity of televisual images.⁵ These strategies of remediation and exhibition are often employed in combination with newer modes of postproduction that emphasize the way images circulating online are readily repurposed and remixed. In the examples I discuss below, the relationship between past and present emerges as a political question worked out by way of the juxtaposition of materials drawn from a wide variety of sources, including television. Tambellini’s  installation Black Matters draws upon an archive of material collected by the artist in  while participating in a program called “Creative Electrography,” designed to introduce high school students in Harlem to video technology. Students created “a series of independent analytical videotapes which dealt with the environment they interacted with on a daily basis.”⁶ In Black Matters, television monitors placed on the floor play videotapes produced by the students in . Above, flat screens hung at various angles display outtakes from a documentary, shot on film, that Tambellini was commissioned to make by the New York State Board of Education in  to showcase a wide array of related arts initiatives. In Black Matters, voices from the present confront these images from an earlier era. The work’s soundtrack includes chants recorded at Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations against the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban in , as well as poetry performed by activist and poet Askia M. Touré. Mining the past for glimpses of unrealized futures, Black Matters places contemporary political struggles within a context that includes prior efforts to employ television as a tool of social transformation. Periodically the word “NOW,” spelled out in bold white block letters, flashes insistently across all six hanging screens (fig. .). The appearance of this word calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s critique of historical progress as underwritten by “the concept of its progression through homogenous, empty time.” Benjamin argues that history is better understood as “time filled by the presence of the now [Jetztzeit],” wherein a past moment ripe with revolutionary possibility blasts out of the continuum of history.⁷ Rather than gathering force as a declaration, however, in my own experience as a visitor to the exhibition, Tambellini’s insistent repetition of “now” lingers as an unanswered question. 150


. Aldo Tambellini, Black Matters, . Multichannel installation, b/w, sound,  minutes. Conceived by Aldo Tambellini with Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi. Image by the author. Courtesy Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation.

As I moved through the installation, I found myself thinking about how Black Matters departs from NOW! (), an experimental agitprop film by the Cuban director Santiago Álvarez. Álvarez’s filmic collage of photojournalism from the civil rights era, ripped from the pages of American illustrated magazines, proclaims a revolutionary commitment to the TV Now?


demand for racial equality, a promise the United States, Cuba’s capitalist counterpart, had failed spectacularly to fulfill.⁸ Black Matters offers up a series of compelling counterimages to Alvarez’s montage of frozen scenes of police brutality and Black victimization borrowed from Life magazine.⁹ In Black Matters, young people of diverse backgrounds take up the means of media production to represent themselves on their own terms. The figures who appear on-screen are engaged in all manner of creative production: scenes involving musical instruments and costumed performance stand out most vividly. In  Tambellini’s Black TV critically disassembled televisual modes of address used to manage crisis at a moment when the fate of the civil rights movement seemed to hang in the balance. Black Matters recasts the alignment of blackness with crisis (understood in terms of politics and art) in Black TV and the artist’s other electromedia works of the s, substituting images of creativity, collaboration, and chants of solidarity for the cries of distress and images of Black suffering that appear in the earlier work. At the same time, the immersive soundtrack in Black Matters marks the distance between earlier efforts to empower young people through access to video technology and the ease with which people mobilize cellphone footage and live streaming within contemporary protest movements. Another recent installation by Tambellini further underscores the question of how television’s historical role in mediating political crisis comes to matter now. In , fifty years after premiering Black TV at the Oberhausen Film Festival, Tambellini presented The Black TV Project as an installation of eight monitors stacked in a grid on the floor next to a wall-size slide projection (fig. .).¹⁰ The work occupies a dark space dominated by the largely nonfigurative imagery projected on the wall, much of it drawn from a series of “Black Films” Tambellini produced between  and . The monitors, dwarfed in this context, present selections from Tambellini’s extensive personal archive of refilmed television broadcasts, only some of which he included in the  version of Black TV.¹¹ Recorded directly from the television screen with a  mm Bolex in the late s, then transferred back to video, these channeled images are marked by the mobility of the artist’s handheld film camera. Blurred and unstable signals give way to glimpses of recognizable public figures: Angela Davis, Richard Nixon, Nina Simone, Mao Tse-tung, Robert Kennedy. Other bits of news footage come in and out of view as well: a press conference with the Chicago police, signs held by striking workers, and shots of the moon taken from outer space. In contrast to Black Matters, the soundtrack of The Black TV Project brings together an array of voices from the past, 152


. Aldo Tambellini and Atelier Impopulaire, The Black TV Project, . Multichannel installation, b/w, sound. Courtesy Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation and Atelier Impopulaire.

captured as if turning a dial between different broadcast frequencies. Fragments of a speech by Governor George Wallace, dispatches from Vietnam, street sounds, and folk songs are briefly audible within the noisy audio collage. The visceral experience of televisual simultaneity produced by the multichannel display and immersive soundscape is held in tension by the ghostly pastness of the images that appear to bob and bounce against the hard edges of the monitors. Once-urgent televisual images return as distant archival traces, their status made all the more uncertain by the abstract projections that overwhelm the space of the installation. If The Black TV Project reexamines a televisual present that has now passed, then Black Matters asks which histories come to matter most in this process and how those past futures resonate with, or diverge from, the one we occupy now. Black Matters revisits efforts to empower people through greater access to the tools of media production and distribution, citing programs that developed in tandem with similar initiatives by public television broadcasters. Read side by side, The Black TV Project and Black Matters reprise the transformations of media politics examined in TV Now?


the preceding chapters. Tambellini and his peers devised inventive ways to take hold of televisual images circulating as signals through the airwaves that were otherwise inaccessible to artists in the first half of the s. Their strategies involved refilming the television screen or otherwise reworking more readily accessible newsreel footage, footage that was often already subject to televisual remediation in a moment when video was not yet widely in use as a mobile recording medium. The impulse to engage with televisual images began as a desire to test the medium’s power to mediate political crisis, efforts that enabled artists to traverse the increasingly porous boundary between art and media. The control exercised over broadcast images by the major television networks in moments of political crisis, as in the case of President Kennedy’s assassination, raised new concerns about the public accessibility of archival televisual material. Network coverage of protests against the Vietnam War prompted new conflicts over accessibility, framed now in terms of positionality and representation, prompting experiments in countermedia production and collective mediation. As political confrontations with authority threatened to erupt into violence, television became not only a means of mediation, but also a site of contestation in its own right. Under these conditions, artists and underground media producers began to gain access to television studios, but only under limited conditions. New opportunities to produce experimental broadcasts for public television raised further questions about how access would be conditioned going forward, and how these conditions might be negotiated, subverted, or refused altogether. Tambellini’s return to the abstraction that permeated his electromedia performances of the s in The Black TV Project recalls the artist’s investment in black as an overburdened signifier linking a modernist vocabulary of abstract form to the disruptive force of Black liberation politics. In  he declared, “‘black power’ is a powerful message, for it destroys the old notion of western man, and by destroying that notion it also destroys the tradition of the art concept.”¹² His embrace of black power yokes blackness as an idea to metaphysical origins, oneness, expanded consciousness, and totality that exceeds the bounds of history. In his words: As I am working and exploring black in different kinds of dimensions, I’m definitely more and more convinced that black is actually the beginning of everything, which the art concept is not. Black gets rid of the historical definition. Black is a state of being blind and more aware. Black is a oneness with birth. Black is within totality, the oneness of all. Black is the expansion of consciousness in all directions.¹³ 154


The Black TV Project asks us to look again at abstraction’s relationship to (anti)blackness as constitutive of the politics of the “now.” Contemporary artists of a younger generation, attuned to violent legacies of abstraction that Tambellini does not address, have also taken up channeled images as a means for addressing these histories and renegotiating how blackness is defined. Kahlil Joseph and Sondra Perry offer two compelling examples of the way Black artists have reimagined the channeled image for the digital age. Joseph’s blknws (–) employs a multichannel format to rework familiar televisual modes of address, reprising strategies previously explored by Tambellini, Bruce Conner, and Stan VanDerBeek. Perry’s Resident Evil () adopts embodied modes of televisual reception and contestation, reworking concerns shared by Carolee Schneemann, Nam June Paik, and Newsreel, as discussed in previous chapters. Whereas formal signs of channeling in the s (e.g., audiovisual noise, split screens, or multichannel displays) signified interest in the political immediacy of broadcast television, these recent works by Joseph and Perry employ desktop-editing practices of layering and remixing to respond to the wide range of historical and archival media that is now readily viewable, sharable, and downloadable online. Read side by side, blknws and Resident Evil recall earlier struggles over access and representation, while inviting us to look more closely at the way commercial online platforms condition collective acts of remediation today. Joseph originally pitched blknws to cable network executives as a regular news program. After his proposal failed to gain traction, he exhibited the work as a “fugitive newscast” in a variety of sites and formats—as a two-channel, site-specific public display, as a gallery installation, and as a traditional cinematic newsreel in commercial theaters.¹⁴ Joseph began developing blknws while a visiting artist at Stanford University. It first appeared as a nearly nine-hour edit on monitors installed at various sites on campus: the Cantor Arts Center, a dining hall serving a residence with a black cultural focus, and a building housing the Institute for Diversity in the Arts. Later iterations of the work were updated continuously by Joseph and a team of assistants. As such, the work defies any attempt at summation. blknws features a mix of material sourced from YouTube and other online platforms, as well as previously broadcast and original blknws segments featuring scholars, artists, and other well-known figures, including Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, Cornel West, Arthur Jafa, Toni Morrison, Dave Chappelle, James Baldwin, Alexandria OcasioCortez, and Serena Williams. Like a conventional newscast, blknws TV Now?


is hosted by a regular cast of anchors (including Amandla Stenberg and Alzo Slade) who are framed by the blknws logo, scrolling text, and other elements familiar from cable news formats. The work is often installed against a wall-size photographic “wallpaper” chosen for its given context. These archival images typically feature ensembles of Black figures from an earlier era, for example, the Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball team (), the New Orleans congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family (ca. ), and the th Infantry Regiment (United States), known as the Harlem Hellfighters ().¹⁵ In , as part of the biennial exhibition Made in L.A., Joseph installed blknws in a variety of quasi-public and commercial sites including Black-owned businesses (clothing stores, restaurants, cafes), often highlighting enterprises with a mission of serving their communities in exceptional ways—for example, a barbershop that describes itself as an “arts programming joint exploring Black male identity” (plate ). blknws was also installed in a community health clinic and a major hospital, as well as in a number of more conventional art spaces (including the Hammer Museum and the Underground Museum, a space Joseph cofounded with his late brother, Noah Davis).¹⁶ The public installation of blknws outside the museum recalls a longer history of similar installations that draw upon what Maeve Connolly identifies as “histories, memories, or perceptions of broadcasting” that intersect with “changing forms of public space.”¹⁷ Some of the neighborhoods where blknws was installed in Los Angeles are in the midst of rapid gentrification. Staging blknws as a form of “ambient television” in a variety of spaces serving different needs, Joseph addresses the work to a heterogenous audience made up of viewers that may identify with different counterpublics, depending on the context.¹⁸ Though blknws takes the form of a commercial cable news program in its conception and attitude, the archival footage embedded in the work recalls the rich history of public affairs programming developed following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in . Devorah Heitner notes the highly politicized black televisual aesthetic that many of these programs cultivated, even as they provided professional opportunities for a younger generation of African American producers, journalists, and technicians, which impacted the industry long after many of the programs disappeared from the airwaves. Joseph’s work is especially attuned to the aesthetic dimension of this broadcasting history.¹⁹ At the same time, the fugitive status of blknws recalls the challenges faced by Black producers seeking to subvert exclusionary broadcasting norms. Heitner argues that in the s, Black public affairs programs such as Say Brother (discussed 156


at the end of chapter ) often combined distinct forms of address, bringing together a “counterpublic strategy of speaking truth to power” with “an enclave strategy of including insider references.”²⁰ blknws can be understood as engaging in a similar, hybrid approach, though accomplished by other means, most distinctly through its combination of material historically associated with Black public interest programming (for example, commentary by Black intellectuals, artists, and performers) with other found material drawn from online sources. Joseph’s use of a dual-channel format adds further layers of complexity and resonance beyond what a more conventional broadcast makes possible. In one iteration of blknws, the artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa discusses a practice of editing that he describes, in a phrase borrowed from the artist John Akomfrah, as “affective proximity.”²¹ This segment is followed by a sequence edited to the track “Gosh” by the English musician and DJ Jamie xx, which performatively enacts the strategy of editing that Jafa describes. Here and elsewhere, Joseph maximizes the impact of the dual-channel format he employs in blknws. He pairs blurry footage of multiple tornadoes gathering force as they move across an open expanse with brief clips of young Black people smiling, smoking, playing musical chairs, and flipping a laughing child upside down. The tornado footage gives way almost seamlessly to footage of the surface of a red planet, presumably Mars. Sometimes the dual-channel format allows Joseph to mirror the image, as when the red planet appears to recede from the camera on both channels at once. Sometimes affinity is produced by way of graphic matches, as when the wheel of a spinning space station on one channel echoes reels of audiotape on the other. Rhythm plays an important role in the process of generating affective proximity in blknws. For example, in the sequence described above, a dancer appears on the left channel. Joseph pairs each beat of her fluid movement with a still image that flashes by on the right channel, often too quickly for the viewer to fully grasp before it is replaced by the next. Famous Black figures appear alongside others who are not as easily identified, as well as other bodies both celestial and earthbound: a luminous Etta James; two moons silhouetted against a swirl of gray matter; a grainy black-and-white photo of a man midleap; an elegant woman in pearls laid to rest in an open casket; a telescope resembling a large weapon; a desaturated still from Nirvana’s video for the song “Heart-Shaped Box”; George Jackson, from the cover of his book Blood in My Eye; a Black soldier; an aerial photograph of six people on a roof with the word help scrawled out in large white letters; Amiri Baraka; Angela Davis; Jimi Hendrix smoking TV Now?


a cigarette in a white fur coat—the list goes on. Joseph’s rapid montage ranges freely across time and space. Rihanna is as likely to appear here as a political banner that reads “Arm the Masses.” The tornado that lends its force to this sequence as it gathers momentum recalls Alessandra Raengo’s description of blknws as “an aesthetic gathering and a gathering of the aesthetic” concerned specifically with “black sociality and black art.”²² Noting how blknws “foregrounds its own ensemblic process,” she observes, “blknws doesn’t just spread black news, culture, or style but allows blackness to accumulate and achieve density.”²³ Joseph’s practice of editing counters what Raengo describes as “the dispossessive violences of abstraction” with “an accumulation of black social life through a thickening, gathering, and channeling of black aesthetics.” Sondra Perry’s Resident Evil offers a striking counterpoint to blknws, by taking up strategies of dispersal, refusal, and opacity.²⁴ Resident Evil appeared as an installation at the center of the artist’s solo exhibition of the same title at The Kitchen in New York City in . The work involves two parts, a short video that plays on a flat-screen television sitting atop a vintage credenza, and a wall-size digitally rendered projection of the artist’s own flesh. The highly abstract looped projection provides an ever-shifting ground for the otherwise familiar domestic staging of the television set, and a striking contrast to the static photographic backdrops employed by Joseph in a similar manner (plate ).²⁵ Like Joseph, Perry directly references the conventions of contemporary cable news programming, while also incorporating found material, including fragments of commercial entertainment and informal cell phone recordings circulating elsewhere online. blknws appears as ambient television installed in a variety of public spaces. Resident Evil, by contrast, recreates elements of domestic viewing to present a short video concerned with the experience of moving through public space subject to what Simone Browne calls “racializing surveillance.”²⁶ Resident Evil begins with a bright blue screen, the hue used in chromakeying to create a composite image made up of a figure and a background shot separately.²⁷ Here Perry treats the blue screen as void, pairing it with audio of an interview of Ramsey Orta by Amy Goodman of the progressive news program Democracy Now. Orta filmed Eric Garner’s death at the hands of New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in . However, neither Orta nor any of the cell phone footage he shot appears as he speaks. The blue screen instead gives way to footage of someone walking at night through a park in the artist’s hometown, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Shot from a first-person point of view, the figure remains unseen. Perry 158


borrows the score from Ridley Scott’s Aliens () to heighten the tension of the scene as it unfolds. Resident Evil is also the name of a popular survival-horror video game and film franchise populated by zombies and mutants. The use of the firstperson camera recalls the conventions of the first-person-shooter video game, as well as police bodycam footage. As Orta describes the way police surveillance operates as a form of intimidation and harassment, the camera moves along neighborhood streets, finally stopping in front of a threestory house. The unseen figure climbs the front steps and approaches the front door. We catch a glimpse of a shadow, the outline of which suggests a hooded sweatshirt. When Trayvon Martin was murdered, Geraldo Rivera made the obscene assertion that his hoodie was as much responsible for his death as was George Zimmerman.²⁸ Perry’s use of the first-person camera gives embodied form to the dynamics of “racializing surveillance” that Rivera’s comment betrays. Walking through the park with your camera already on as a mode of self-protective “sousveillance” is one way to contend with anti-Black surveillance.²⁹ Media blackout—knowing when to demand the media turn its cameras off—is another. Rivera appears in the next sequence reporting for Fox News during the uprising that erupted in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray in . Cell phone footage shows Kwame Rose, one of the protesters, confronting Rivera and the Fox News television camera directly with a pointed critique of the network’s lack of genuine interest in Baltimore. Rose makes his complaint plain: “You’re not here reporting about the boarded-up homes and the homeless people under MLK. You’re not reporting about the poverty levels up and down North Avenue. But you’re here for the Black riots.” Perry includes a second video of the confrontation as it appeared broadcast live on Fox News, now framed by the familiar emblems of cable news, including news ticker and titles. While the official report broadcast by Fox News fills the frame, the longer unedited cell phone footage that begins the sequence continues to play in synch in a separate window in the corner of the screen. The brief appearance of file names at the top of each frame, a playback menu, and a hovering cursor remind us we are watching a desktop recording of files ripped from YouTube and relayed back through a television set (and not a television broadcast itself ). Here Perry exploits the affordances of the desktop to layer one channel on top of another, rather than presenting the two videos side by side on separate monitors, as in blknws. This technique of recording a screen containing overlapping video files, associated with the genre of the desktop documentary, allows the artist to performatively TV Now?


enact practices associated with pre- and postproduction (here research and editing) that would otherwise go unseen.³⁰ At one point during the Fox News sequence, Rose’s proximity to the television cameras causes his image to break up and become pixelated. He directly confronts the apparatus that facilitates what Aria Dean calls “the circulation of blackness.” As Dean observes in an essay reprinted by Perry on the occasion of her solo exhibition: There is no articulable ontology of blackness, no essential blackness, because blackness’s only home is in its circulating representations: a network that includes all the bodies that bear its markers, the words produced by such bodies, the words made to appear to have been produced by such bodies, the flat images that purport to document them, and so forth.³¹

Dean proposes the meme as a model for how Black people might, in her words, “render ourselves opaque, through our own serial, iterative excess.” The footage at the center of Perry’s video proposes another tactic for preserving opacity. Rose turns away from Rivera, looking past the TV cameras, and addresses the crowd of people holding up phones to record the confrontation. “This is not for YouTube,” he tells them, “This is serious. I want the cameras off.” Whereas Joseph’s blknws updates earlier attempts by Black television producers to constitute an audience as counterpublic through a process that foregrounds its own ensemble process, Perry instead focuses on Rose’s act against media, his refusal of the terms by which Fox News seeks to make his image legible according to its own, all too familiar script, and the subsequent dispersal of the crowd that has gathered around him, both in person and online.³² While Rose is caught in the glare of the television crew’s lights, much of the rest of Resident Evil unfolds in relative darkness as a first-person long take shot while moving through the interior of a house, as if a character in a video game were advancing through a space of potential play.³³ A score borrowed from another horror film, Predator (), swells as the unseen figure climbs a flight of carpeted stairs. What evil lurks here? Who is the predator? What or who is the prey? The evil at the heart of this house turns out to be aspirational and performative. “I wanna be evil,” Eartha Kitt sings, a declaration that answers back to Rose’s pointed refusal of the terms by which his image will be made legible by Fox News. Kitt appears on a television at the far side of the darkened living room in a black-andwhite clip from . As Perry’s camera approaches the glowing monitor, 160


Kitt’s blurry image temporarily resolves. Leaning over a stuffed tiger, its mouth ajar in a silent roar, she sings, “I wanna be mad, but more than that, I wanna be bad.” Kitt’s performance is witty and riveting. Perry films the television screen directly, but here, rather than documenting events as they unfold, the artist encounters an image from the past that nevertheless strongly resonates with her own here and now. The camera moves close enough to the screen to reveal the raster lines making up the image, before stepping back to continue its -degree pan around the room. The singer’s aspiration to evil is met only with the banal signs of domestic comfort: family pictures on the wall, a crocheted blanket, knickknacks on a shelf. This is Perry’s own family home. The final sequence of Resident Evil binds past and present in another way. It begins in a car driving slowly at night. When it comes to a stop, Perry steps out of the passenger side to film the façade of another neighborhood house. Departing from the realm of fictional horror, Perry braids together documentary evidence of two harrowing confrontations with police, one from her own childhood, the other hauntingly recent. As the artist sets up her shot, the image starts to flicker. Scrolling text on-screen recounts an incident when police arrived in full SWAT gear at the Perry family home to serve a warrant to someone residing there. Perry pairs this story, as remembered by her mother, with audio from a video made by Korryn Gaines during a traffic stop in , when she was pulled over for driving an unregistered vehicle. She tells the police officer threatening to arrest her, “When you put your hands on me, you will have to murder me.” As Soyoung Yoon observes, Perry’s own story “eerily echoes the scene of Gaines’s death.”³⁴ In August , only a few months after making the recording, Gaines was shot by police in her home.³⁵ Perry asks, “Do you remember how they got into the house?” and for a moment, past and present collapse under the weight of impending violence. As the interview comes to an end, the image on-screen fades back to chroma-key blue, ending where the piece began. Perry links her use of this particular shade of blue to “the idea of blackness as a space that moves and shifts constantly”: I guess that’s also how blackness keeps its radicality. It has to shift. It has to move. But it also has to keep itself open to a lot of things that seem scary. We’re not talking about Black people, we’re talking about this idea of black radicality that anyone can jump in and out of, and it’s necessary for anyone to be able to jump in and out of it because it has to stay fluid. The Chroma Key post-production space is that space for me.³⁶ TV Now?


The space of postproduction in Perry’s work takes on other dimensions as well. As the artist explains, it can function as “an extraterrestrial space” or a space “where the thing either has yet to happen, or it has, and everything has happened.”³⁷ In Resident Evil, the blue screen as void is set against the shifting ground of a projection the artist describes as a “Flesh Wall,” created by processing an image of her own skin through animation software used to digitally render the movement of the ocean. The results yield a molten image that resembles a churning sea of red, a world as alien as Mars, produced by a radical shift in scale. The effect speaks not only to the illegibility and mutability of flesh when magnified, but also to what Perry calls the “ocean-as-modifier in the African diaspora, the thing that changed, or flipped everything over”—what might be another way of naming the dispossessive violences of abstraction.³⁸ In the s channeled images appeared in works that sought to make something of the fleeting images traveling through space as broadcast signals. Television has changed in the half century since. The rise of ondemand streaming, user-produced content, algorithmic filters, and niche audiences has transformed the way we watch television and, with it, the way images are channeled. While network and cable news outlets continue to produce influential television programming, YouTube and similar platforms allow anyone and everyone to operate their own channel as well.³⁹ Slivercasting online has become an important mode of distribution and remediation, enabling televisual material to be disseminated through social networks alongside all manner of other media. Joseph’s and Perry’s approach to channeling images can be understood as shaped by these new affordances, conditions, and related conventions. At the same time, the memory of earlier broadcast eras remains encoded into the archival materials they appropriate. The screen becomes a space of postproduction in their work. New formal configurations—file layering, digital rendering, and remixing—appear alongside older techniques for representing channeled images, such as refilming the television screen or displaying two or more channels simultaneously. In the s artists, filmmakers, and television producers confronted corporate control over archives that should rightfully belong to the public (Bruce Conner and Emile de Antonio), collectively produced new forms of countermedia (Carolee Schneemann and Newsreel), and seized opportunities afforded by educational and public broadcasting to gain increased access while also challenging the terms by which that access is conditioned (Newsreel, Nam June Paik, Stan VanDerBeek). In each case, the channeling of images involved asking how the timely distribution of audiovisual 162


signals operates as an event with social and political consequences. Joseph and Perry show us how many strategies for depicting channeled images remain relevant today, while emphasizing the way these images are encoded within histories of political struggle understood as durational, ongoing, and atmospheric. In blknws, Joseph pairs audio of Christina Sharpe reading from her book In the Wake: On Blackness and Being with footage from Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (). The film depicts the horrors of the Middle Passage, including a scene in which a mother holding her child throws herself overboard. Sharpe observes, “The amount of time it takes for a substance to enter the ocean and then leave the ocean is called ‘residence time.” She concludes, “We Black people exist in the residence time of the wake, a time in which ‘everything is now.’ It is all now.”⁴⁰ The “now” that lingers as a question in Tambellini’s Black Matters returns in Joseph’s and Perry’s work, not as an instant flashing up out of the continuum of history, but as a wave that gathers and disperses again and again. If Tambellini imagined blackness as a crisis of representation given form through originary and ahistorical abstraction, Joseph and Perry instead recall histories of abstraction bound up with the dispossessive violence of living in the wake. While their works take up different strategies of resistance, in each case, channeled images become a means for conveying black aesthetics as politics— swells of joy, power, play, and all manner of imaginative creation, met by deep countercurrents of refusal, fugitivity, and opacity.

TV Now?



Writing can be a humbling experience, but it is never a solitary undertaking. Over the course of writing this book, the generosity and support of advisors, colleagues, and dear friends has taught me this lesson again and again. Anne Wagner inspired me to read with an ear tuned to dissonance. Jeffrey Skoller prompted me to trust my gut instincts. Kaja Silverman showed me what wrestling bravely with uncertainty makes possible. To each I offer my deepest gratitude. I’d like to thank James Whitman Toftness, David Olsen, and Joel Score for their sage editorial advice and guidance through the process of preparing the manuscript. I would also like to thank Greg Zinman and two anonymous readers for their thought-provoking and generous feedback. I am profoundly grateful to the artists and filmmakers at the center of this book, and to those working behind the scenes to make sure their work remains in the public eye. Deep thanks to Michelle Silva at the Bruce Conner Estate, Kova Walker-Lečić at the Walker Art Center, Rachel Churner at the Carolee Schneemann Foundation, Trey Hollis at P*P*O*W gallery, Wendy Payne and Anna Salamone at the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation, Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi of Atelier Impopulaire, Amy Sloper and Brittany Gravely at Harvard Film Archive, Livia Camperi at Third World Newsreel, Michael Blair at Electronic Arts Intermix, Chelsea Spengemann at the Stan VanDerBeek Archive, Amanda Smith at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research,

Bill Imperial and Ron Mann at Sphinx Productions, Melissa Wasson and Sheldon Hochheiser at the AT&T Archives and History Center, Meredith Self at Columbia University Libraries, Jocelyn Wilk at Columbia University Archives, Khalil Joseph, Jeff McLane, and, last but not least, Sondra Perry, as well as Erin Leland and Sabrina Tamar at Bridget Donahue Gallery. Invitations from Melissa Ho, David Cateforis, Steven Duval, John David Rhodes, Shepherd Steiner, Tess Takahashi, and Kenneth White to publish and share my research pushed the development of the project in new and fruitful directions. I would also like to thank my copresenters and respondents on a number of panels where I presented pieces of this book still in progress, including Katie Anania, Elise Archias, James Boaden, Kris Cohen, Almudena Escobar López, Elizabeth Ferrell, Christine Filippone, David Fresko, Leo Goldsmith, Noelle Griffis, Josh Guilford, Tung-Hui Hu, William Kaizen, Homay King, Julian Myers-Szupinska, Joel Neville Anderson, Melissa Ragona, Henry M. Sayre, Sylvie L. Simonds, Juan Suarez, Joanna Szupinksa-Myers, John A. Tyson, Brian C. Wallace, and Anna Watkins Fisher. I am especially grateful for the support of generous friends and colleagues in the Department of History of Art at Ohio State University, including Julia Andrews, Allison Buenger, Lisa Florman, Mark Fullerton, Amanda Gluibizzi, Barbara Haeger, Byron Hamann, Christian Kleinbub, Namiko Kunimoto, Christina Burke Mathison, Kris Paulsen, Jody Patterson, Andrew Shelton, Gabrielle Stephens, Mark Svede, and Karl Whittington. While writing this book, I found myself buoyed by the encouragement, comradery, and models of integrity offered by friends old and new (that I haven’t already mentioned). Thanks to Erika Balsom, Nico Baumbach, Roger Beebe, Vera Brunner-Sung, Lisa Cerami, Iggy Cortez, Gabrielle Demeestere, Antoine Derroja, Josh Dubler, Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, Maxine Fredericksen, Hilary Galland, Sarah Kaufmann, Woodwyn Koons, Maya Kremen, Andrew Moisey, Jonathan Mullins, Julie Napolin, Brendan Newnam, Claire Nicklin, Gina Osterloh, Scott Polach, Dani Restack, Sheilah Restack, Liz Roberts, Danny Snelson, Katya Semyonova, Chris Stults, Jared Thorne, Andrew Uroskie, Yasmine Van Pee, Velma Valentine, Andrew Weiner, Ben Young, Soyoung Yoon, Damon Young, and Genevieve Yue. I owe a debt of gratitude almost impossible to name to Johanna Gosse. She has been my trusted interlocuter since the day we met and has read multiple versions of every chapter. Without her wit, wisdom, and generosity, this book simply would not exist. Finally, I am forever grateful for the patient and loving support of my family, and for the lessons each as taught me about how to trust the pro166


cess. Thanks to my sister Rachel and brothers Aaron and Dan, my parents Jolynn and Martin, their partners, Leon and June, my grandparents, and to all the members of my extended family. Ginger, Marvin, Steve, and Lee Ann, thank you for welcoming me into your family. I reserve the deepest and most profound thanks for my partner, Danny. The conversations, laughter, and love we share ground me every day in what matters most.




Introduction . Aldo and his partner, Elsa Tambellini, opened the Gate Theater in  on East th Street and nd Avenue in the East Village. The theater showed experimental films seven days a week. In March  Tambellini founded the Black Gate on the second floor of the theater with the artist Otto Piene, whom he had met at the Howard Wise Gallery in . Piene was a cofounder of Group ZERO and in  became director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, where Tambellini was a fellow from  to . Black Gate Theater opened with a performance of Tambellini’s Blackout () on a shared bill with Piene’s Proliferation of the Sun (). For a definition of electromedia, see Elsa Tambellini, “Electromedia: A Movement,” Arts/Canada, no.  (November ), . . Tambellini made Black Video  with a Sony CV-, one of the first consumer video recording systems on the market. With the camera on a tripod, he created signal interference on the soundtrack with a microphone while shining a portable light directly into the lens, ultimately burning permanent dark spots into the surface of the camera’s vidicon, the electron tube used to capture images by scanning a photoconductive surface with an electron beam. Sal Fallica, “Black Electromedia: An Interview by Sal Fallica,” in Centervideo: Film, Video, TV and Telecommunication, –, ed. Otto Piene, Elizabeth Goldberg, and Vin Grabill (Cambridge, MA: CAVS, MIT, ), –. See also Joseph D. Ketner II, Witness to Phenomenon: Group ZERO and the Development of New Media in Postwar European Art (New York: Bloomsbury, ), . . The interview, broadcast December , , on WABC, Channel , as part of a series hosted by reporter John Parsons on artists in the East Village, appears on Aldo Tambellini: Cathodic Works –, DVD,

Von Archives (VON , ). See also Aldo Tambellini, “Simultaneous Video Statements,” Radical Software , no.  (Spring ): . . Amelia Ishmael, “An Interview with Aldo Tambellini: Going Back Again, Forward . . . Suspended in Space, Circular Forms, Broadcasting Signals into Spirals,” Wavelengths, March , , accessible via -tambellini. . Aldo Tambellini, cited in Lynn Maliszewski, “Aldo Tambellini Videograms,” Osmos Magazine, Winter , . . Ernesto Menéndez-Conde, “We Are the Primitives of a New Era: An Interview with Aldo Tambellini (Part II),” Art Experience: NYC, October , , accessible via . Jürgen Habermas identifies the emergence of a public sphere of critical discursive exchange in the eighteenth century, which can be distinguished from the sphere of “public authority” (the state, the police, and other authorities such as the church, the nobility, etc.) as well as other forms of private or economic relations. Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge offer an important critique of Habermas that distinguishes the classical liberal-bourgeois public sphere he identifies from both “public spheres of production” and “counterpublic spheres” capable of exploiting contradictions within advanced capitalist societies. “Public spheres of production” include private media that are imbricated with the market. The contradictions that concern Negt and Kluge emerge from the tension between operations of exclusion and inclusion, driven by economic interests, that occur when elements of the public sphere of production (e.g., commercial television networks) attempt to shore up their political legitimacy and authority by entering into alliances with the state and other elements of the bourgeois public sphere. My use of the phrase “televisual public sphere” is informed by their account of these tensions. Negt and Kluge critique the limitations of public-service television in the German context in terms that are also relevant to the encounters between artists, activists, and public television producers recounted here, inasmuch as they are concerned with how programming restrictions constrain communication. (I address these issues in chapters  and .) Other relevant critiques of Habermas’s conception of the bourgeois public sphere include Nancy Fraser’s feminist account of “other, nonliberal, non-bourgeois competing public spheres” and Michael Warner’s emphasis on the agency of culture, art, and performance in the formation of counterpublics, as informed by queer theory. Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Polity Press, ); Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ); Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text, nos. / (), –; Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (New York: Zone, ). . David E. James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, ), . . James, Allegories of Cinema, .


Notes to Pages –

. The history of moving image transmission, as Doron Galili argues, involves “intermedial influences, technical amalgamations, and shared imaginaries that problematize the clear-cut distinction between the fundamental medial functions of [cinematic] recording and [televisual] transmission.” Doron Galili, Seeing by Electricity: The Emergence of Television, – (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . . See David Antin, “Video: The Distinctive Features of the Medium,” Video Art (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, ), –; Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” October, no.  (Spring ), –. Krauss distinguishes the “reflexiveness of modernist art” from the mirroring effects of “absolute feedback” in video. The former throws two categorically distinct entities (e.g., picture/ object) into relief, while the latter functions as a means for “bracketing out the object” altogether. For this reason, video’s medium, rather than being defined in terms of a physical mechanism, is best described as a psychological situation, which she identifies as narcissism. More recent scholarship has revisited the question of video art’s relation to politics in the late s and early s. See William Kaizen, Against Immediacy: Video Art and Media Populism (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, ); Peter Sachs Callopy, “The Revolution Will Be Videotaped: Making a Technology of Consciousness in the Long s” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, ). . Scarcity of content, or what William Uricchio calls “constraint,” served different goals: on the one hand, the “formation of an ideologically coherent national public”; on the other, the economic self-interests of broadcasters relying on the financial revenue produced by the promotion of products and messages. He contrasts the scarcity of the broadcast era to the relative plenty of the deregulated cable era and the vast access enabled by on-demand internet programing, and notes that planned scarcity was deployed differently by commercial broadcasters in the American context than by European broadcasters guided by the needs of the state and directed toward an imagined public sphere less dominated by the logic of consumerism. William Uricchio, “Constructing Television: Thirty Years That Froze an Otherwise Dynamic Medium,” in After the Break: Television Theory Today, ed. Marijke de Valck and Jan Teurlings (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, ), –. . Uricchio, “Constructing Television,” . . Theodor Adorno, “How to Look at Television,” Quarterly of Film Radio and Television , no.  (Spring ): –. . Steven Connor, “Channels,” Literature Media Sound Conference, University of Aarhus, November , ,// channels.pdf. . Adorno, “How to Look at Television,” . . Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (; Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, ), . . Williams, Television, . . Williams, Television, . . Marshall McLuhan’s technologically determined account of media effects is the explicit target of Williams’s critique. McLuhan’s account focuses on the way media

Notes to Pages –


extend or augment our sensory organs. The phonetic alphabet and printing press, for example, extend human vision, which in turn produces an adjustment of “ratios” to maintain the equilibrium among our sensory organs. Williams argues that media, understood this way, are seen not as social practices but, rather, as “psychic adjustments, coming not from relations between ourselves but between a generalized human organism and its general physical environment.” See Williams, Television, –. . Williams, Television, . . Williams is particularly wary of studies that isolate the medium of television as the primary cause in what he describes as a “widespread discussion of effects,” for example, studies which take up the question of the effects of televised violence. Williams, Television, –. . Williams, Television, . . Aldo Tambellini’s Black was first performed at the International House at Columbia University on January , , with the poets Ishmael Reed and Norman Pritchard. It was performed again at the Bridge Theatre, NYC, March –, , with the addition of the dancer Carla Blank. Black  took place at the Bridge Theatre, June , , and , , and was produced in collaboration with Ben Morea and Elsa Tambellini. The performance included the dancer Lorraine Boyd and the poet Calvin C. Hernton, accompanied by Cecil McBee on bass. These performances culminated in Black Zero, performed at the Astor Playhouse, NYC, November , , as part of the New Cinema Festival I. This performance, produced in collaboration with Elsa Tambellini, incorporated Morea’s “clamorous machines,” as well as Ron Hahne’s “spiral machine.” Hernton read poetry, backed by jazz musicians Bill Dixon (horn) and Alan Silva (bass). Black Zero was performed twice more, at the Bridge Theatre, December –, , and at the Brooklyn Academy of the Music, March  and April , , on a shared bill with Carolee Schneemann, as part of “Intermedia ’,” a touring festival produced by John Brockman, the organizer of the New Cinema Festival I in , which became widely known as the “Expanded Cinema Festival.” . Aldo Tambellini also presented a work called Black TV at the Howard Wise Gallery in December  as part of a group exhibition entitled Festival of Lights, alongside works by Nam June Paik and others. . Christine Mehring, “Television Art’s Abstract Starts: Europe Circa – ,” October, no.  (Summer ), . . Tambellini describes the array of technical components involved in the staging of Black Gate Cologne as an immersive media environment: “Over twelve monitors were set out in the studio, half of them suspended from the ceiling, the others on various parts of the floor, plus one oscilloscope which produced images created by the sound coming from several speakers. There were four cameras located in different floor areas and one on a balcony. . . . As many as six different kinds of visual information were fed at once into the twelve TV monitors while a multitude of TV images were projected on the walls simultaneously with the slides. The studio TV cameras, with zooms, close-ups, panning moved from audience to monitors to films to slides to me, who in the midst of the activity was filming the event. In the control room the simultaneous visual information was constantly mixed and juxtaposed creating an


Notes to Pages –

intense continuous experience of light energy and sound. The final mix, recorded as a videotape, was simultaneously seen on one of the four monitors, creating a total experience.” Aldo Tambellini, “Notes from notebook by Aldo Tambellini, ,” http://.html. . Robert Kennedy’s tour of the Mississippi Delta took place the day after a Senate hearing on the War on Poverty, where Fannie Lou Hamer and other activists linked the threat of starvation in many poor counties in the South directly to voting rights repression. For an account of media coverage, see Laurie B. Green, “The Media Matters:  Years after the ‘Discovery’ of Hunger in the U.S.,” MLK: Justice through Journalism, April , , https://mlk.com/the-media-matters--years-after-the -discovery-of-hunger-in-the-u-s-cebfb. . On the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Poor People’s Campaign, the last large-scale demonstration of civil rights–era America, see Gerald D. McKnight, The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign (Boulder, CO: Westview, ). . Nadja Millner-Larsen, “The Subject of Black: Abstraction and the Politics of Race in the Expanded Cinema Environment,” Grey Room, no.  (Spring ), . . Ina Blom describes “the rage, paranoia, and hysteria” elicited by Black Gate Cologne as “the specific content of the affective modulation of a properly televisual collective in .” She distinguishes this collective from the “mass” associated by Walter Benjamin with the mass-reproduced image. Furthermore, she notes, the format of the program departs radically from any conception of the public sphere understood as an “arena” of “debate and struggle.” Instead, the televisual collective pictured in Black Gate Cologne “is defined in terms of sub-individual and supra-individual mobilizations caused by sensory onslaught.” She reads the work as part of a broader effort “to think social memory in terms of dynamic processes of differentiation and individuation” against “the macroscopic understanding of art’s place in collective memory (as representation: image and monument).” Ina Blom, The Autobiography of Video: The Life and Times of a Memory Technology (Berlin: Sternberg, ), –. . Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New York: E. P. Dutton, ), –. . The festival was presented by the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque between November  and January . Jonas Mekas hired John Brockman to produce the festival, most of which took place at the Astor Place Playhouse at  Lafayette Street. In January , Mekas moved the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque to West st Street, where the festival concluded. See Ketner, Witness to Phenomenon, –. . Nam June Paik performed two shows during the festival on November , . The program includes “Electronic Television” (filmed and edited by Stan VanDerBeek) and “Variations on a Theme by Stan VanDerBeek,” described as a work “where everything is changed by (Charlotte) Moorman, Paik, and (Linda) Sampson.” VanDerBeek’s work was featured in a program that ran on November  and . For a discussion of VanDerBeek’s contribution to the festival, see Gloria Sutton, The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), –; Andrew Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ), . Tambellini

Notes to Pages –


performed Black Zero on November . Carolee Schneemann performed Ghost Rev as part of a program of works by USCO on November  and . Film-Makers’ Cinematheque advertisement, Village Voice, November . . Of the work shown at New Cinema Festival I in , Jonas Mekas writes, “Not all that’s happening at the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque this month is or can be called cinema. Light is there, motion is there, the screen is there; and the film image, very often, is there; but it cannot be described or experienced in terms you would use to describe or experience the Griffith cinema, the Godard cinema, or even the Brakhage cinema.” Jonas Mekas, Movie Journal: The Rise of New America Cinema, – (New York: Macmillan, ), . Sheldon Renan observes that expanded cinema “is not a particular style of filmmaking. . . . It is cinema expanded to the point at which the effect of film may be produced without the use of film at all.” Sheldon Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film (New York: E. P. Dutton, ). . See Justus Nieland, Happiness by Design: Modernism and Media in the Eames Era (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ); Jonathan Walley, Cinema Expanded: Avant-Garde Film in the Age of Intermedia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ); Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube; Sutton, Experience Machine; Liz Kotz, “Discipling Expanded Cinema,” in XScreen: Film and Actions in the s and s, ed. Mattias Michalka (Vienna: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wein, ), –. . Walley, Cinema Expanded, . . Jerry Wakefield, “Cinema,” Downtown Magazine, October , . . Sutton, Experience Machine, . See also Jonathan Walley, “The Material of Film and the Idea of Cinema: Contrasting Practices in Sixties and Seventies AvantGarde Film,” October, no.  (Winter ), –. For an incisive analysis of expanded cinema in the context of the social, institutional, and cultural practices associated with the black box theater, which understands cinema as a “social technology,” see Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube, –. . Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, . . Justus Nieland, “Midcentury Futurisms: Expanded Cinema, Design, and the Modernist Sensorium,” Affirmations: Of the Modern , no.  (Winter ): . . The United States Information Agency (USIA) commissioned the Eames Office to produce Glimpses of the U.S.A. for the first USSR-USA cultural exchange. . Beatriz Colomina, “Enclosed by Images: The Eameses’ Multimedia Architecture,” Grey Room, no.  (Winter ), –. . Michael Shamberg, Guerrilla Television (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, ), b. (Guerrilla Television is divided into two, separately paginated sections, a “meta-manual” and a manual, with page numbers followed by “a” and “b,” respectively.) . Paul Ryan, “Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare,” Radical Software , no.  (Spring ): –. . Norbert Wiener, I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Prodigy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . See also Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (New York: Wiley, ). 174

Notes to Pages –

. Claude Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Bell System Technical Journal  (July/October ): –, –. This widely influential study, soon published as a book with an introduction by Warren Weaver, formalized the concept of an information channel used as a medium to send a message between a sender and a receiver. Building on Shannon’s mathematical theory of communication, Weaver lays out a basic model of a communication system: “The information source selects a desired message out of a set of possible messages. . . . The selected message may consist of written or spoken words, or of pictures, music, etc. The transmitter changes this message into the signal which is actually sent over the communication channel from the transmitter to the receiver. In the case of telephony, the channel is a wire, the signal a varying electrical current on this wire; the transmitter is the set of devices (telephone transmitter, etc.) which change the sound pressure of the voice into the varying electrical current. In telegraphy, the transmitter codes written words into sequences of interrupted currents of varying lengths (dots, dashes, spaces). In oral speech, the information source is the brain, the transmitter is the voice mechanism producing the varying sound pressure (the signal) which is transmitted through the air (the channel). In radio, the channel is simply space (or the aether, if anyone still prefers that antiquated and misleading word), and the signal is the electromagnetic wave which is transmitted.” Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ), . Shannon limited the applicability of his communication theory to the fundamental problem of “reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message related at another point.” He was not concerned with the “semiotic aspects of communication,” which he saw as irrelevant to the engineering problem his theory addressed. Weaver applied Shannon’s information theory to intentional communication, setting the stage for the popularization of these concepts. Shannon, however, remained wary of applying his mathematical theory to human communication. See Claude Shannon, “The Bandwagon,” IRE Transactions on Information Theory, March , . . Jud Yalkut, “Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider: Parts I and II of an Interview,” Radical Software , no.  (Spring ): –. . Nieland, “Midcentury Futurisms,” . . Yalkut, “Gillette and Schneider,” . . David Joselit, Feedback: Television against Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . . Joselit, Feedback, . . Joselit, Feedback, . . A third important site for artists’ television, KQED in San Francisco, home to the National Center for Experiments in Television (NCET), has been addressed elsewhere. See, e.g., Kris Paulsen, “In the Beginning, There Was the Electron,” X-TRA: Contemporary Art Quarterly , no.  (Winter ): –; John Minkowsky, “The National Center for Experiments in Television at KQED-TV, San Francisco,” in The Emergence of Video Processing Tools: Television Becoming Unglued, ed. Kathy High, Sherry Miller Hocking, and Mona Jimenez (Bristol: Intellect, ), –. . Randolph Lewis, Emile de Antonio: Radical Filmmaker in Cold War America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, ), . Notes to Pages –


Chapter  . The first bulletins announcing the shooting, at : p.m. EST, interrupted an episode of As the World Turns on CBS, the only network then broadcasting nationally (at the time, ABC and NBC affiliate stations were airing local programming or syndicated reruns). Walter Cronkite did not appear on-screen for another twenty minutes while the camera was moved into the newsroom and warmed up; by then, all three networks were on the air with live coverage. CBS announced the president’s death first, relaying unconfirmed reports from informed sources before an official statement was issued by the priests who administered Kennedy’s last rites. NBC and ABC chose to wait for official word. Elmer W. Lower, “A Television Network Gathers the News,” in The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social Communication in Crisis, ed. Bradley S. Greenberg and Edwin B. Parker (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ), –. . The use of all uppercase letters and no italics in the titles of Conner’s works follows a convention dictated by the artist, a format he likened to “newspaper headlines.” See “plates ‘Etc.’: Some Notes to the Reader,” in Bruce Conner: It’s All True, ed. Rudolf Frieling and Gary Garrels (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), . . Bruce Jackson, “Conversations with Emile de Antonio,” Senses of Cinema, April ,/politics-and-the-documentary/emile_de _antonio/. . Philip Rosen, “Document and Documentary: On the Persistence of Historical Concepts,” in Theorizing Documentary, ed. Michael Renov (New York: Routledge, ), –. . Barbie Zelizer, Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ), –. . Mary Ann Watson, “How Kennedy Invented Political Television,” Television Quarterly , no.  (Spring ): –. . Victoria E. Johnson, “The Classic Network Era in Television, s–s,” in A Companion to the History of American Broadcasting, ed. Aniko Bodroghkozy (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, ), . . David Randall Davies, The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, –  (Westport, CT: Praeger, ), . . Wilbur Schramm, “Communication in Crisis,” in Greenberg and Parker, Kennedy Assassination, . . The live feeds were sent by cable to a central control unit in the Capitol. The telephone company supplied the required cable facilities. CBS handled the image feed at the Capitol, to which each network added its own audio commentary. Cameras were positioned inside St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and along the procession route from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery and were periodically moved to keep up with the march. Richard F. Shepard, “Television Pools Camera Coverage,” New York Times, November , . . David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ), .


Notes to Pages –

. Art Simon also notes the multivalence of the title report, which, he argues, refers not only to the sound of a gun firing and breaking news of the assassination but to the Warren Report. Art Simon, Dangerous Knowledge: The JFK Assassination in Art and Film (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, ), . . Bruce Conner, interview with Nancy Richards, Boulder, Colorado, April , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder , –), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. For an alternative reading of report that emphasizes Conner’s personal experience of Kennedy’s death, see Kevin Hatch, Looking for Bruce Conner (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . . Mary Ann Doane, “Information, Crisis, Catastrophe,” in Logics of Television, ed. Patricia Mellencamp (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ), . . Ken Kelman, “The Anti-Information Film,” in The Essential Cinema: Essays on the Films in the Collection of Anthology Film Archives (New York: Anthology Film Archives, ), . . Conner, interview with Richards, ; emphasis added. . Conner’s stroboscopic sequence uses partially exposed frames. Tony Conrad explores a similar optical phenomenon in The Flicker, a thirty-minute film made of alternating black and clear frames, without the light bleeds that appear at the edges of the frames in Conner’s film. For a comprehensive account of Conrad’s film, see Branden Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (Cambridge, MA: Zone, ), –. Conrad completed The Flicker in , while Conner was still editing report. In an interview, Conner remarks, “When I made report, I used that stroboscopic effect in one way and the next year Tony Conrad did a movie called Flicker, which had a different purpose than mine. What he was doing was closer to experimenting with the stroboscopic . . . mass sort of thing, the stroboscopic lights.” Conner describes his use of the strobe effect in report as a way of registering Kennedy’s fading consciousness. Conner, interview with Richards, –. . Analog television signals are displayed on a cathode ray tube (CRT). The image on a CRT is created by a moving beam of electrons, steered by electromagnets, that hits a phosphor coating on the front of the tube. See Peter A. Keller, The Cathode-Ray Tube: Technology, History, and Applications (New York: Palisades Press, ). . Tom Pettit, “The Television Story in Dallas,” in Greenberg and Parker, Kennedy Assassination, –. The rifle recovered from the Texas School Book Depository was initially misidentified by police as a German-made Mauser, rather than the Italianmade Carcano tied to Oswald. This error raised fears about evidence tampering and conspiracy surrounding the assassination. . For Conner’s use of filmic signifiers as a mode of semiotic-materialist critique, see James, Allegories of Cinema, –. . The footage of the Kennedys at Love Field was aired on CBS as soon as the film could be processed. . Bruce Jenkins cites many of the same images to argue that the film’s epilogue “imaginatively unpacks the Kennedy myth.” Bruce Jenkins, “Contesting Camelot: Bruce Conner’s Report,” in Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema, ed. Ted Perry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ), .

Notes to Pages –


. Tung-Hui Hu observes that the completion of these networks across the American West had profoundly centralizing tendencies: “The railroad tied the nation’s goods and passengers together, standardizing clocks in the process by creating ‘railroad time’; telephone service gave rise to the largest and wealthiest monopoly on earth, the Bell System; television broadcast schedules were coordinated to deliver a uniform American audience to advertisers.” Tung-Hui Hu, A Prehistory of the Cloud (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . . For an account of the interrelated technical and political conditions that gave rise to this “network imaginary” at midcentury, see Patrick Jagoda, Network Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ), –. . For an account of the development of SABRE in the context of “real-time systems,” see Phillip A. Laplant, Real-Time Systems Design and Analysis (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience, ), –. . “Sabre: The First Online Reservation System,” IBM , ibm/history/ibm/us/en/icons/sabre/transform/. . Bruce Conner, interview with Robert Shimshak, June , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder , ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. . The technical means for collecting viewer data were still quite primitive in . Most participants in Nielsen surveys were prompted to write down what they were watching by a Recordimeter, a device that emitted a loud buzzing sound and produced a flashing light behind the picture tube every half hour (generating an effect not unlike the flicker sequence in report). In  Nielsen began using a device called an Audiometer to automatically record what viewers were watching, further advancing the networks’ capacity to target viewers as consumers. “Selling Confusion,” Time , no.  (April , ): . . Schramm, “Communication in Crisis,” , . . Bruce Conner, “Independent Filmmaker, Bruce Conner, Lecture, Part  (April , ),” Department of Film and Video Archive, Carnegie Museum of Art, http://cmoa-records-images.s___A _transcript.pdf. . Bruce Conner, “Bruce Conner,” Film Comment , no.  (Winter ): . . Conner, Carnegie Museum lecture; emphasis added. . Conner, Carnegie Museum lecture. Mitch Tuchman notes that NBC and CBS refused Conner footage without prior “script approval.” Mitch Tuchman, “Kennedy Death Films,” Take One  (May ): . . Scott MacGillivray, Castle Films: A Hobbyist Guide (New York: iUniverse, ), –. . For an extended discussion of the term “remediation” in the context of digital media, see Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ). . Four Days That Shocked the World, Colpix Records, XTV , , LP. . William Wees, Recycled Images: The Art and Politics of Found Footage Films (New York: Anthology Film Archives, ), . . At the time of the assassination, Conner was living in Brookline, Massachu-


Notes to Pages –

setts, Kennedy’s birthplace. Conner planned to document Kennedy’s burial, which he assumed would take place in Brookline. When Kennedy was instead buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Conner was forced to reconceptualize the film. Conner, “Bruce Conner” (Film Comment), . . Cary O’Dell, “Kinescope,” in Encyclopedia of Television, ed. Horace Newcomb (New York: Routledge, ), –. . Bruce Conner to Robert Shapazian, December , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Conner distributed the  mm version of the film with the title report: television assassination. As he explains to John Hanhardt, Curator of Film and Video at the Whitney Museum of American Art, “This is an entirely different film than report in  mm sound.” Bruce Conner to John Hanhardt, January , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. For a longer discussion of Conner’s efforts to edition  mm films for home viewing, see Erika Balsom, After Uniqueness (New York: Columbia University Press, ), –. . In  Conner released a  mm version of television assassination with a soundtrack by Patrick Gleeson. . Bruce Conner, “Artist’s Questionnaire,” Walker Art Center, May , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. . Bruce Conner to Willie Varela, February , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. . Conner, “Artist’s Questionnaire.” . Home-movie newsreel highlights released under the title “News Parade” became especially popular during World War II. Castle Films considered ending the series in  for fear that television would erode its market. But the popularity of the format persisted, and Castle Films continued to release annual headline highlight reels, in addition to special collector’s editions of important events, such as Kennedy’s assassination, until . MacGillivray, Castle Films, –. . Life published a four-page spread with frames of the color Zapruder film printed in black and white. “The Assassination of President Kennedy,” Life , no.  (November , ): –. . television assassination premiered to the public on March , , at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The installation was activated for thirty minutes before and after a retrospective screening of Conner’s films in the museum’s film theater. “Notice of Press Screening: New Works by Bruce Conner,” Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. . Conner originally exhibited eve-ray-forever at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in  as part of the solo exhibition Bruce Conner: Sculpture, Assemblages, Drawings and Films. The film has since been restored and also reworked into an entirely new digital iteration entitled three screen ray (), produced in collaboration with Michelle Silva. On the making of this piece, see Michelle Silva, “The Making of three screen ray: Reformation of a Pixel-Baiting Villain,” in Bruce Conner: The s, exh. cat. (Nuremberg: Kunsthalle Wien, Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Verlag für Modern Kunst Nürnberg, ), –.

Notes to Pages –


. Conner, interview with Richards, . See also James, Allegories of Cinema, . . Bruce Conner, interview with Doug Aitken, in Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative;  Conversations with Doug Aitken, ed. Noel Daniel (New York: Distributed Art Publishers, ), . . Mia Culpa, “Bruce Conner: Part Two,” Damage , no.  (January ): . . Conner, interview with Aitken, . . John Dunning, On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (New York: Oxford University Press, ), . . Julian Myers describes a movie as “a comedic archaeology of progress and an elegy for American modernity.” Julian Myers, “Works by the Late Bruce Conner (Part ),” Open Space/SFMOMA, July , ,//works-by -the-late-bruce-conner-part-/. My brief treatment of a movie cannot do justice to the complexity of its montage. For an incisive reading of the film within the sociopolitical context of Cold War America, see Johanna Gosse, “Cinema at the Crossroads: Bruce Conner’s Atomic Sublime –” (PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College, ). . Conner, Carnegie Museum lecture, –. . Conner, interview with Richards, . . Douglas Gomery, Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, ), . . In an interview with Bruce Jenkins, Conner explained, “A lot of grade B, C, or D westerns and other film relied an awful lot for their production values by [sic] using clips from older films. Some of the studios would use the same clips over and over again. The introductory clip of Manhattan, showing you the Brooklyn Bridge seemed to appear time and time again. There were also cattle drives, African shots, etc., etc., that would be dropped into the middle of a picture from some previous documentary or a feature film. And I was aware of that. . . . So, all of this was, for me, an awareness that within common use in experimental film, as well as commercial films, there were bits and parts of other films from different times and places being introduced. Usually to give a narrative continuity. I exploited that in the beginning of a movie.” Bruce Conner, interview with Bruce Jenkins, February , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder , ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Leo Goldsmith observes that “a movie hints at the totality of the moving image industry and to its underlying infrastructure, dispersed in many distinct objects and iterations, from production to circulation to reception.” Leo Goldsmith, “a movie by . . . Appropriation, Authorship, and the Ecologies of the Moving Image,” First Monday , nos. – (January ),. . Conner, “Artist’s Questionnaire.” . NBC played the footage of Oswald’s shooting five times that day. CBS, broadcasting from the Capitol when the shooting happened, quickly switched over to Dallas to broadcast the confused aftermath, and later broadcast the footage it had not been able to show live. Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (New York: W. W. Norton, ), . For a detailed account from the perspective of reporters at the scene, see Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, George Phenix, and Wes Wise, When the News Went Live: Dallas  (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, ). 180

Notes to Pages –

. Bruce Conner to Willie Varela, February , , Bruce Conner Papers (carton , folder ), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. . Conner reprised this use of extreme slow motion in his  film crossroads, released shortly after he exhibited television assassination for the first time in . The thirty-seven-minute film repurposes military footage from Operation Crossroads, the  atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, which had been shot at an extremely high frame rate; the slowness of the footage in crossroads is thus a found effect rather than one imposed by Conner, as in television assassination. (I am grateful to Michelle Silva for this observation.) Conner produced crossroads on the occasion of the American Bicentennial. television assassination could be understood as a prelude to this ironic commemorative gesture. . Art Simon argues that the image of Lee Harvey Oswald in television assassination “materializes and dematerializes slowly and repeatedly over the course of fifteen minutes, just as he would over the next thirty years in the assassination literature.” Simon, Dangerous Knowledge, . . November nd and the Warren Report aired on CBS on Sunday, September , , just a few hours after the commission issued its report. The first ninety minutes of the two-hour special were devoted to CBS’s investigation of the evidence and the last thirty minutes to a comparison of its findings with those of the commission. The program began at  p.m., so by the time NBC and ABC coverage began at :, CBS had already gone over all the evidence. . Bruce Jenkins argues that television assassination “focuses on the reception of the assassination and its impact on the home front rather than on its mythic construction.” Jenkins emphasizes the work’s immediacy, or what the filmmaker Stan Brakhage calls the “immediate capturing of immediate feelings.” Jenkins, “Contesting Camelot,” . This sense of immediacy is complicated, however, by its inclusion of footage broadcast upon the release of the Warren Report in . . Mark Lane, retained by Oswald’s mother as a lawyer shortly after he was shot, published a book in , also entitled Rush to Judgment, which became a best seller. De Antonio’s relationship with Lane soured after the film was released. Lewis, Emile de Antonio, –. When De Antonio recut the film for video release, he eliminated scenes in which he felt Lane was “too redundant.” Jackson, “Conversations,” n.p. . “Film to Examine Kennedy Inquiry,” New York Times, August , . . Douglas Kellner and Dan Streible, “Emile de Antonio: Documenting the Life of a Radical Filmmaker,” in Emile de Antonio: A Reader, ed. Douglas Kellner and Dan Streible (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), . . Emile de Antonio, “The Point of View in Point of Order,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . De Antonio did not believe that the camera alone could furnish the truth. He was fiercely critical of what he described as the myth of “fake technological objectivity” promoted by filmmakers such as Frederick Wiseman, insisting, “No camera can present the truth. A person presents the truth.” Susan Linfield, “Irrepressible Emile de Antonio Speaks,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . . Branden Joseph observes that although “De Antonio attributed his aesthetic, in part, to the neo-avant-garde legacy of the Cage circle, . . . it ultimately proved to be unlike Cage’s indeterminate compositions, Rauschenberg’s heterogeneous Combines, Notes to Pages –


or cinematic analogues like Bruce Conner’s a movie.” Joseph argues that the “homogeneous and starkly detached appropriation” of “blown-up, grainy television footage without evident transformation” in Point of Order is more aligned with Andy Warhol’s mimetic strategies of appropriation. In Point of Order, De Antonio, like Warhol, sought to expose the triumph of “the art of advertising” in McCarthyism by “appropriating and enlarging it on screen.” Branden Joseph, “,” October, no.  (Spring ), , . As De Antonio’s practice evolved, he moved away from the “homogeneous” mode of appropriation that Joseph identifies with Point of Order toward a more heterogenous mode of montage, as evidenced by the range of materials included in Rush to Judgment. In the process, he continued to develop mimetic strategies of critique beyond the use of found footage to include the adoption (and estrangement) of the conventional television interview format. . Bernard Weiner, “Radical Scavenging: An Interview with Emile de Antonio,” Film Quarterly , no.  (Autumn ): . . Jean W. Ross, “Emile de Antonio,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . “Letter to Hubert Bals and Wendy Lidell,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . . Terry de Antonio, “An In-depth Interview with Emile de Antonio,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . . Tuchman, “Kennedy Death Films,” . . In a letter written in , Robert Chandler of CBS indicated that the outtakes were not ultimately destroyed. For a detailed account of De Antonio and Lane’s experience with CBS, See Robert C. Ladendorf, “Resistance to Vision: The Effects of Censorship and Other Restraints on Emile De Antonio’s Political Documentaries” (master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin–Madison, ), –. . De Antonio described his process of making films as “radical scavenging.” Weiner, “Radical Scavenging,” . . Thomas Waugh, The Right to Play Oneself: Looking Back on Documentary Film (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), . . Emile de Antonio, “A Very Brief Note on the Style of Rush to Judgment,” in Rush to Judgment press kit (New York: Impact Films, ), , quoted in Douglas Kellner and Dan Streible, “Emile de Antonio: Documenting the Life of a Radical Filmmaker,” in Kellner and Streible, Reader, . . Lewis, Emile de Antonio, . . De Antonio, “Very Brief Note,” . See also Kellner and Streible, “Documenting the Life,” . . The film provides ample evidence that such threats were to be taken seriously. Another witness, Warren Reynolds, recounts chasing after someone who shot Officer Tippit. Initially, he could not identify Oswald as this shooter; later, he changed his story. Nevertheless, shortly after testifying, Reynolds was shot by an unknown intruder at his workplace and barely survived the attack. De Antonio’s film crew experienced similarly intimidating threats from the Dallas police. Emile de Antonio and Mark Lane, “Rush to Judgment : A Conversation with Mark Lane and Emile de Antonio,” Film Comment , nos. / (Fall/Winter ): . . Lewis, Emile de Antonio, –.


Notes to Pages –

. One witness, S. M. Holland, for example, explains how the commission used his testimony to argue that no shots were taken from behind a fence on the embankment opposite the motorcade. In the film, he clearly states the opposite view, showing the film crew the exact place along the fence where he believes the shots were fired, insisting, “I heard the report and saw the smoke.” . In a published note from , De Antonio describes the television outtake as the “history of our time.” In response to a network official’s statement that the outtakes were not in fact destroyed, the filmmaker responds, “Good! I want to see more than the six hours I saw over ten years ago. Those six hours clearly exposed flaws and omissions in both the Warren Report and the actual CBS broadcasts. . . . CBS, ABC, NBC constitute a monopoly of electronic news and history.” Emile de Antonio, “A Postscript from Emile de Antonio,” Take One  (May ): . . Lewis, Emile de Antonio, . . Lewis also compares Rush to Judgment to Conner’s report, claiming that the latter takes up the “strictly formal possibilities” of filmmaking whereas De Antonio eschews the formal experimentation of underground films. Lewis, Emile de Antonio, . . Sasha Torres, Black, White, and in Color: Television and Black Civil Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, ), –. . De Antonio and Lane, “Rush to Judgment,” . . “Kennedy Programme Called ‘Rigged’: Mr. Lane Attacks B.B.C.,” Times, January , . . The Death of Kennedy, Programme File, BBC Written Archives Center, Caversham Park, Reading. The broadcast was hosted by Cliff Michelmore and Kenneth Harris. Other panelists included Arlen Specter and David Belin, counsels to the Warren Commission. Lord Devlin and Alexander Bickel participated as judges “assessing the evidence” put forward by the panelists. “The Death of Kennedy,” Radio Times , no.  (January , ): .

Chapter  . Carolee Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy: Performance Works and Selected Writings, ed. Bruce R. McPherson (New Paltz, NY: Documentext, ), . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Schneemann developed this technological feedback system with the assistance of engineers from Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). She was the first artist to officially receive E.A.T.’s support. See Ralph Flynn, “Snows Technical Description,” E.A.T. News , no.  (June , ): –. . Snows opened on January , before the Week of Angry Arts officially began, and ran a total of eight times (January –, –, February –). The Week of Angry Arts included contributions by artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, musicians, playwrights, dancers, actors, and stage technicians. The breadth of participation is documented in Rudolf Baranik’s report “The Angriest Voice” (May ). Rudolf Baranik Files, folder , PAD/D Archives, Museum of Modern Art Library. Events included thirteen classical music concerts, a jazz concert dedicated to draft-age youths, a folk

Notes to Pages –


and rock marathon, some forty films, two evenings of dance, five evenings presented by Broadway and Off-Broadway actors, a variety of exhibits and panel discussions, and other endeavors more experimental in form. More than a hundred artists contributed panels to a -by--foot “Collage of Indignation.” Rasa Gustaitis, “‘Angry Arts’ War Protest Opens in N.Y.: Unprecedented in Scope,” Washington Post, January , . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Carolee Schneemann, “Notations (–),” Caterpillar / (October ): . . No Game was the second film released by the group. Bill Nichols, “Newsreel: Film and Revolution” (master’s thesis, University of California, Los Angeles, ), . . Carolee Schneemann, “American Experimental Theatre: Then and Now,” PAJ: Performing Arts Journal , no.  (Autumn ): . See also Branden Joseph on Schneemann’s account of her exclusion from the history of happenings. Branden Joseph, Experimentations: John Cage in Music, Art, and Architecture (New York: Bloomsbury, ), –. . See Anette Kubitza, “Flux-proof, or ‘sometimes no one can read labels in the dark’: Carolee Schneemann and the Fluxus Paradox,” Women & Performance , no.  (): –. See also “Unsent letter to Allan Kaprow” (June ), in Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . For a wide-ranging account of the involvement of artists in protests against the Vietnam War, see Matthew Israel, Kill for Peace: American Artists against the Vietnam War (Austin: University of Texas Press, ). . While still a graduate student in painting at the University of Illinois, Schneemann organized an event entitled Labyrinths around a tree that had fallen through the roof of the house where she was living. Instructions to the participants included “make a self-determined set of pathways around and through the obstacles, evolving the sorts of motion and actions which the obstacles propose; make contact with the mud, water, high grass, the stream, the fallen tree; proceed from east to north to west and meet at the rock pile for a cook-out.” Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Massimiliano Gioni, “More Than Meat Joy: Carolee Schneemann,” Mousse  (April ): . . With Judson Dance Theater, Schneemann produced Newspaper Event on January , ; Chromelodeon on June , ; Lateral Splay on November  and , ; and Looseleaf (for Judson Dance Theater Workshop) on January , . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, –. . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . Schneemann mentions Cage as an important influence on the Judson Dance Theater, alongside Anna Halprin and James Waring. “Oral history interview with Carolee Schneemann,  March ,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, interviews/oral-history-interview-carolee-schneemann-#transcript. . For a detailed account of the Dunns’ workshop and assignments, see Sally Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater, – (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), –. Thomas Lax observes, “Students were asked to make dances that corresponded to the number of measures in the music—its ‘time-structure’ or


Notes to Pages –

‘number structure’—without taking the melody or its affective qualities into account, ideas then associated with modern dance choreographers like Martha Graham and José Limón. The Dunns gave other assignments that used time-based structures, sometimes inscrutably: Make a five-minute dance in half an hour. Do something that’s nothing special. These koanlike instructions were part of Robert’s intention to make his class ‘a clearing,’ or a ‘space of nothing,’ and reflected the effect of Zen Buddhism on his teaching method, introduced to the Dunns, Cage, and others in their downtown cohort through the writings of teacher and monk Shunryū Suzuki.” Thomas J. Lax, “Allow Me to Begin Again,” in Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done (New York: Museum of Modern Art, ), . . Cage attended lectures by Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki on the tenets of Zen Buddhism at Columbia University. David W. Patterson, “Cage and Asia: History and Sources,” in The Cambridge Companion to John Cage, ed. David Nicholls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), . . Untitled Event, staged in the dining hall at Black Mountain College, took the form of a series of unrelated actions (including a lecture by Cage, a dance by Cunningham, poems read by Charles Olsen and M. C. Richards, and a piano solo by David Tudor) cued according to a timed score determined in advance by chance operations. Judith Rodenbeck observes that timing during Untitled Event was “a function of externally clocked and regulated time rather than tempo or expression.” Judith Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes: Allan Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . Liz Kotz also emphasizes the importance of this treatment of time as “a predetermined time structure, available to be filled with any content.” Liz Kotz, Words to Be Looked At: Language in s Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), . . Merce Cunningham, “The Impermanent Art” (), reprinted in David Vaughan, Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years, ed. Melissa Harris (New York: Aperture, ), . For a fuller elaboration of the significance of Cunningham’s statement, see Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes, . . The Daily Wake was performed as part of the first concert produced by the Judson Dance Theater. For a full account of the event, see Sally Banes, “The Birth of the Judson Dance Theater: ‘A Concert of Dance’ at Judson Church, July , ,” Dance Chronicle , no.  (): –. . The dancers involved in Judson Dance Theater, many of whom had performed with Cunningham’s company, worked through the possibilities afforded by the use of chance operations in different ways, and often in relationship to other formative experiences, most notably working with Ann (now Anna) Halprin and James Waring. Judith Rodenbeck notes, for example, that for Yvonne Rainer, Cage’s “chance methods were not affirmative but rather critical and could lift ideological veils that disguised the ugliness of the status quo.” Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes, . For an account of the influence of Cage and Anna Halprin on Simone Forti’s work, see Meredith Morse, Soft Is Fast: Simone Forti in the s and After (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ). . Banes, Democracy’s Body, . . Ana Janevski, “Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done—Sanctuary

Notes to Page 


Always Needed,” in The Work Is Never Done: Judson Dance Theater, ed. Ana Janevski and Thomas J. Lax (New York: Museum of Modern Art, ), . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, –. . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . Schneemann cites Wilhelm Reich as an important influence and uses language that evokes his concept of muscular or character armor in letters written shortly after the production of Snows. See for example, Schneemann, “Letter to Joseph Berke, February , ,” in Correspondence Course, ed. Kristine Stiles (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . Anette Kubitza discusses the influence of Reich’s “character analytical treatment,” used to “loosen a person’s muscular armor to overcome resistance to analysis,” and other emotional defenses on Schneemann’s work. She notes that the practice involves “sometimes painful, physical contact between the therapist and the patient.” Anette Kubitza, “Fluxus, Flirt, Feminist? Carolee Schneemann, Sexual Liberation and the Avant-garde of the s,” n.paradoxa, no.  (July ), . Writing about Meat Joy (), Elise Archias argues that Schneemann “updates” Reich, concluding, “Meat Joy’s readily legible pleasure in the everyday life of consumer culture prevented it from yearning for a primitive pre- or post-social society beyond the reach of repression.” Elise Archias, The Concrete Body: Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Vito Acconci (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ), . Schneemann’s preoccupations are aligned with what Susan Leigh Foster describes as “new training programs” and “bodily regimens designed to uncover the natural body and facilitate its perceptual awareness . . . informed by post-Reichian and Gestalt conceptions of body-self that construed bodily postures and muscular reflexes as intrinsically connected to general inhibitions.” Such regimens were taken up, for example, in Anna Halprin’s dance workshops and rehearsals for the Living Theater. Susan Leigh Foster, Dances That Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, ), . . Branden Joseph, noting the significance of what Schneemann calls “interpenetrations and displacements,” points out that interpenetration was also a key term in Cage’s lexicon, but one he paired with “unimpededness,” which “referred to the capabilities of individuals to act from their ‘own centers.’” Joseph argues, “Contrary to Cage’s ideal of pure disinterestedness, Schneemann’s ‘interpenetrations’ had everything to do with affective relations.” “Whereas Cage seemed primarily interested in lowering affective pull, formulating the means to allow individual musicians, for instance, to act without altering or determining the actions of their peers, Schneemann aimed to heighten the reciprocal influences that her performers had upon one another.” Joseph, Experimentations, , . See also Carolee Schneemann, “Snows,” Ikon , no.  (March ):  . Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . The roles in Newspaper Event were sometimes doubled up in surprising ways having nothing to do with the proximity of one body part to another. For example, Ruth Emerson was given the role of the legs and the face, while Yvonne Rainer was assigned the neck and feet. See Ramsey Burt, Judson Dance Theater: Performative Traces (New York: Routledge, ), –.


Notes to Pages –

. Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Deborah Hay et al., “Sanctuary: Judson’s Movements,” Artforum , no.  (September ): . . Judith Rodenbeck offers a detailed description of the work’s complex staging and structure. “Water Light/Water Needle was first performed in the parish meeting room of St. Mark’s Church on the Bowery in March , in New York City, and then again several weeks later, for filming purposes, outdoors on the old Havemeyer Estate in Mahwah, New Jersey. The New York version took place in a large open room that had two thin steel columns in the middle; three tiers of ¾ inch manila rope were installed (after extensive structural consultation) using a system of steel supports, pulleys, and rings and were tethered to the walls and the columns, transecting the volume on a loosely rhomboid plan. The audience was seated on the floor beneath. The twohour performance proceeded in five regally paced movements: ) audience is seated in metaphorical ‘water’; ) dancers emerge and move across low ropes; ) ‘clouds’ rise and fall as dancers move on low and middle ropes, accompanied by tone clusters; ) clouds rise and fall as dancers move amongst and upon one another on middle and high ropes; ) to the sounds of Vivaldi dancers move on rope structure and back to their starting points.” See Judith Rodenbeck, “Schneemann’s Crystal: Water Light/Water Needle,” in Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting, ed. Sabine Breitwieser (Munich: Museum der Moderne Salzburg/Prestel, ), . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, . . Schneemann, “Notations (–),” . . Daniel Hallin, The Uncensored War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), –. . Michael Arlen, “The Living Room War,” New Yorker, October , , reprinted in The Living Room War (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, ), . . Arlen, Living Room War, . Daniel Hallin’s study of American media coverage of the Vietnam War supports Arlen’s observations. He shows that reports on the ongoing military action in Vietnam were overwhelmingly positive and patriotic, particularly in the period prior to the Tet Offensive. He argues that commercial television news created dramatic coherence through narrative framing rather than the exploitation of violent imagery. In place of historical or political analysis, Hallin observes that reports dealt primarily with day-to-day military operations and tended to portray American troops as the good guys, leaning heavily on tropes of masculine grit and national unity in the face of adversity. Hallin, Uncensored War, –. For an account of efforts made by the networks to provide special coverage of the war that would make “Vietnam meaningful to its audiences,” see Charles Montgomery Hammond Jr., The Image Decade: Television Documentary – (New York: Hastings House, ), –. . Fred Turner argues that Cage began to develop new compositional strategies shaped in part by his response to “the deliberately impressive public harmonies of popular music” that emerged in the context of World War II. Cage sought, by contrast, to liberate listeners from becoming “passive mass receivers of emotional messages.”

Notes to Pages –


Fred Turner, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ), . Elsewhere I discuss how this Cagean sensibility informed Yvonne Rainer’s contribution to the Week of Angry Arts, Convalescent Dance. See Erica Levin, “Dissent and the Aesthetics of Control: On Carolee Schneemann’s Snows,” World Picture  (Summer ),/Levin.html. . Michael Mok, “The Blunt Reality of the War in Vietnam,” Life, November , . . A study conducted by Lawrence W. Lichty found that from August  to August , only  out of , television reports (about  percent) showed anything approaching violent combat. Lawrence W. Lichty, “Comments on the Influence of Television on Public Opinion,” in Vietnam as History: Ten Years after the Paris Peace Accords, ed. Peter Braestrup (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, ), . . Max Kozloff describes the ubiquitous appearance during the Week of Angry Arts of a poster that confronted passersby with the question “Would you burn a child?” and the blunt answer “When necessary.” It pairs a slick studio shot of a man holding a lighter to a child’s palm with a grainy news image of a Vietnamese woman cradling a bare-bottomed toddler covered in burns. (This image does not appear in the essay published in Ramparts, but all the other examples I cite include images from that article.) See Max Kozloff, “. . . A Collage of Indignation,” Nation, February , , –. Also see Curtis Harnack, “Week of the Angry Artist,” Nation, February , , . The Poets’ Caravan is mentioned in Don McNeill, “Week of Angry Arts: Protest of the Artists,” Village Voice, January , . It is also briefly discussed in Francis Frascina, Art Politics and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in Sixties America (Manchester: Manchester University Press, ), –, . . William F. Pepper, “The Children of Vietnam,” Ramparts (January ): –. . David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: Vintage Classics, ), . On April , , King passionately condemned the war during a speech delivered at Riverside Church in New York City. Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam,” in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (New York: IPM/Warner Books, ), . . Gerald Jonas, “Dissent,” New Yorker, February , , . . After Snows, Schneemann continued to explore her ambivalence toward information as a medium in works such as Electronic Activation Room, staged at the exhibition Happenings & Fluxus in Cologne in the winter of –. See Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . For a nuanced reading of the stakes of information overload in Electronic Activation Room, see Kenneth White, “Meat System in Cologne,” Art Journal , no.  (Spring ): –. . Robert Coe, “Carolee Schneemann: More than Meat Joy,” Performing Arts Magazine  (): . . Schneemann, “Snows,” –. . Schneemann, “Snows,” . Also see Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, . In published notes and interviews, Schneemann often identifies the date of this newsreel


Notes to Pages –

as . The sequence of events she describes date from  and appear in the Castle Films News Parade of that year. Images from this newsreel are reprinted along with the score of Snows in Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, , , . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Viet-Flakes performatively enacts what Walter Benjamin describes as the urge to “get hold of an object [or in this case, a distant event] at very close range by way of its likeness.” Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, ), . . Schneemann, “Notations (–),” . . Michael Bracewell, “Other Voices: Interview with Carolee Schneemann,” Frieze  (October ), . The performers in Snows included Schneemann, Shigeko Kubota, Tyrone Mitchell, James Tenney, Phoebe Neville, and Peter Watts. Neville was the only cast member trained as a dancer. Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Carolee Schneemann, “Image as Process,” Creative Camera  (October ): . Susan Sontag aligns early happenings with the Surrealist tradition of “radical juxtaposition,” which destroys conventional meanings in order to allow new meanings to emerge out of a “collage principle” that stresses “the extremes of disrelation.” For Sontag, the materials in happenings are “primary,” a “preoccupation” expressed “in the use or treatment of persons as material objects rather than ‘characters.’” Susan Sontag, “Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition,” in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (New York: Dell, ), –. In notes published in October , Schneemann vehemently objected to the equation Sontag proposed between performers and materials, writing “use just doesn’t answer or serve my relationship to people and objects.” For Schneemann, the term “use” was too “exploitive.” She found it “without emotion, beyond expressed conjunction.” In her view, “use” belonged “to practical values”; it did not serve what she called “an aesthetic interchange—the process of assimilation, influence, and transformation.” Schneemann, “Notations (–),” . Sontag admits that the Surrealist principle can be made to serve what she calls “the purpose of reeducating the senses.” It is in this spirit that Schneemann engages in “radical juxtaposition.” But rather than emphasizing “the extremes of disrelation,” Schneemann fosters connections that would otherwise be difficult to perceive, making space for the senses “to expand into primary feelings, as well as the sensitive relatedness among persons and things.” Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, . . Carolee Schneemann, “Meat Joy: Notes,” in Theatre Experiment, ed. Michael Benedikt (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, ), . . Schneemann first explored this type of action in Ghost Rev, staged in November  with Phoebe Neville in collaboration with USCO, and notably the first of her performances to incorporate film as a material element. Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, –. . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . E.A.T was established by Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg upon the completion of the performance series Nine Evenings in October . Schneemann

Notes to Pages –


has distanced herself from E.A.T., claiming that Snows was only supported by the group informally due to Klüver’s relationship with James Tenney. Tenney occupied a unique, hybrid position between artist and engineer and played an integral role in many of the Nine Evenings performances. Tenney’s residency at Bell Labs lasted until , but he remained in close touch with Klüver and played an important part in facilitating E.A.T.’s support of Snows. See “Carolee Schneemann, interviewed by Kenneth White,” Third Rail  (Winter ): . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . Schneemann in conversation with Pamela M. Lee, New York, October , , cited in Pamela M. Lee, Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the s (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), –. . The photo was taken by the Japanese photojournalist Kyōichi Sawada for the wire service United Press International and recognized as World Press Photo of the Year in . Schneemann mentions the image explicitly in notes on Snows published in . “The dragged body is quite specifically based on figures, face down, arms out being dragged through the dust by ropes attaching their ankles to U.S. tanks.” Schneemann, “Snows,” . . Time reported that the man in the photograph had confessed to being a sniper responsible for the death of a small child. According to the photographer who followed the unit as they searched for the sniper, the man was cut down from the tree unharmed and taken as a prisoner after fifteen minutes of questioning. “Angle Shots,” Time, May , , . . Leo Steinberg, “Other Criteria,” in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (London: Oxford University Press, ), . . Steinberg, “Other Criteria,” –. . Kristine Stiles notes the often-overlooked significance of Schneemann’s selfidentification as a painter. She links Schneemann’s long-standing interest in organizing visual structures with what she describes as a painterly “aesthetic of the transitive eye.” Steinberg describes the flatbed as a work surface that seems to stand in “for the mind itself—dump, reservoir, switching center, abundant with concrete references freely associated as in an internal monologue.” Schneemann, as Stiles argues, “draws attention to the connection between actual things and conceptual representations through the material of the body.” This account of Schneemann’s project clarifies the importance of the visual relays between live action and image in Snows, which work to further disrupt the homogenizing effects of the flatbed picture plane. Kristine Stiles, “The Painter as an Instrument of Real Time,” in Carolee Schneemann, Imaging Her Erotics: Essays, Interviews, Projects (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), –. . Mignon Nixon offers a productive alternative reading of Schneemann’s film, suggesting that her work shows us that the image of war is “unseeable even with the help of explicit images, not because it is too remote, but because it is a part of us from the start.” Viet-Flakes asks what it would mean to incorporate war “into psychic reality through images.” Mignon Nixon, “What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It? Feminist Politics and America’s War in Vietnam,” in Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War –, ed. Melissa Ho (Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, ), –. 190

Notes to Pages –

. Viet-Flakes visualizes an experience that John Berger identifies with the mass circulation of photographs during the Vietnam War “which earlier would have been suppressed as being too shocking.” He describes such photographs as “arresting” and observes, “We are seized by them.” Photographs of war that “record sudden moments of agony—a terror, a wounding, a death, a cry of grief,” he argues, redouble the violence of events that are incommensurable with everyday experience. “The image seized by the camera is doubly violent and both violences reinforce the same contrast: the contrast between the photographed moment and all others.” When the viewer assumes the discontinuity is her own responsibility, a result of personal moral inadequacy, looking at such photographs can give rise to depoliticized compensatory reactions that naturalize violence. “The picture,” he concludes, “becomes evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody.” John Berger, “Photographs of Agony” (), in About Looking (New York: Pantheon, ), –. . As a composer-in-residence at Bell Labs, Tenney created a series of collaged compositions using tape recorders and began to write software that used computers to compose music, becoming one of the first experimental composers to do so. See JeanClaude Risset, “About James Tenney, Composer, Performer, and Theorist,” Perspectives of New Music , nos. / (Winter–Summer ): –. . Coe, “Carolee Schneemann,” . . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . See Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, ). . East Village Other, September , , . . Maurice Isserman, “The Flower in the Gun Barrel,” Chronicle of Higher Education , no.  (October , ): B. . Executives at CBS “killed” plans for any live or special coverage of the protests and actively encouraged the other major networks to do the same. Gitlin, Whole World Is Watching, . . Allan Siegel, “Some Notes about Newsreel and Its Origins,” http:// . David James offers a detailed account of the political alliances and shifting conditions that defined this political moment. See James, Allegories of Cinema, –. . The group involved in Siegel’s workshop included Nick Doob, Rene Lichtman, Shawn Walker, Stu Bird, Karen Mitnick, and Melvin Margolis. Siegel, “Some Notes about Newsreel.” . This statement by Newsreel was excerpted in Jonas Mekas’s “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice on January , . Jonas Mekas, “On Radical Newsreel,” in Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema – (New York: Collier, ), –. . Fishman and Oē met in  through the Third World Studio, a film collective established by Bob Lowe, a film professor at Columbia. See interview with Marvin Fishman, in Andy Couturier, A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, ), –. . Scott MacDonald, “Interview with Christine Choy (and collaborators Allan Notes to Pages –


Siegel, Worth Long, and Renee Tajima),” in A Critical Cinema : Interviews with Independent Filmmakers (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), . Also see Toru Umezaki, “Free University of New York: The New Left’s Self-Education and Transborder Activism” (PhD diss., Columbia University, ), . . Newsreel catalog, reproduced in Michael Renov, The Subject of Documentary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), . . Jonathan Kahana emphasizes the temporal layering of No Game’s use of nonsynch sound, highlighting one section of the film in which Marvin Fishman addresses the soldiers directly in a “hectoring” voice-over recorded in the studio after the march. This speech stands out as an exceptional moment on a soundtrack recorded almost entirely on location. Kahana argues that “frequent shifts from one kind of recorded sound to another” underscore “the mediation of the filmmakers and their recording devices.” The shouts and impassioned statements by marchers recorded on location with the noise of the march audible in the background lend the film a sense of immediacy that, I would argue, is at odds with the attention to mediation that Kahana’s reading of the film foregrounds. Jonathan Kahana, Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary (New York: Columbia University Press, ), . . Couturier, Different Kind of Luxury, . . Marilyn Buck, Norm Fruchter, Robert Kramer, and Karen Ross, “Newsreel,” Film Quarterly , no.  (Winter –): –. . Fishman cites the Yippie protest at Grand Central Station on March , , as evidence of the shifting tone of the antiwar movement and a sign that the police had become “less tolerant” of dissent: “I remember one time we were in Grand Central Station, and I was filming a policeman beating up on a pregnant woman, right there in the middle of Grand Central Station, at which point the cops grabbed me. I took my camera and flipped it maybe fifteen feet in the air to Masa, who caught it and ran away.” Couturier, Different Kind of Luxury, . . In an interview with Annabelle Ténèze, Schneemann recounts, “By the mids after I saw resisters and protestors beaten in Grand Central Station by the police, I began physical exercises training for groups. I wanted to extend some of the principles of the Kinetic Theater work to see if we could develop techniques for resisting when police tried to push, beat, or grab us, for saving ourselves and for collaboration, helping each other evade police brutality.” “Interview by Annabelle Ténèze,” in Then and Now, Carolee Schneemann, Oeuvres d’Histoire, ed. Annabelle Ténèze (Dijon: Les presses du réel, ), –. . Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy, . . “Guerrilla Reels Make Bow in N.Y.,” Variety, March , , . . Jonas Mekas, “Movie Journal,” Village Voice, February , . Mekas’s interest in the production of alternative newsreels predated the formation of Newsreel. On November , , the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque sponsored an event entitled “America Today,” described as “a new series of journalistic film programs reflecting on the social, political, and moral climate of our times, the feelings, issues, and events of the day as seen by today’s independent filmmakers.” Notably, the first film on the program was Mekas’s own “Report from Millbrook,” which documents the arrest of Timothy Leary and is listed as a “newsreel.” The program also included work by future 192

Notes to Pages –

members of Newsreel, including Time of the Locust by Peter Gessner (who helped organize the Week of Angry Arts) and Troublemakers by Robert Machover and Norman Fruchter. The program played repeatedly during December  and was reprised in July . See Film-Makers’ Cinematheque advertisements, East Village Other, December –, , and Village Voice, July , . . The Film-Makers’ Cinematheque was a peripatetic screening series organized by Mekas. See David E. James, “Introduction,” in To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground, ed. David E. James (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, ), –. . Newsreel, “Some Ideas about Where the Newsreel Is after Two Months (Feb. ),” in The New Left: A Documentary History, ed. Massimo Teodori (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, ), . Cynthia Young notes that the antiwar movement sparked Newsreel’s Third World orientation. In addition to distributing their own work, Newsreel chapters distributed Cuban and other international films that “widened that orientation beyond Vietnam,” and so became a “virtual clearinghouse for Third World anticolonial film.” Cynthia Young, Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism, and the Making of a U.S. Third World Left (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), –. . Newsreel, “Speech to a Communications Forum (March ) (Excerpts)” in Teodori, New Left, . . Couturier, Different Kind of Luxury, –. On the term “media-mix” within the context of expanded cinema, see Renan, Introduction to the American Underground Film, . . MacDonald, “Interview with Christine Choy,” . . A feature on Newsreel published in New York magazine described one such guerrilla screening as a less than successful venture, beset by disagreements over expired permits and a dead truck battery. Susan Braudy, “The Eyes and Ears of the (Underground) World,” New York, October , , . . Christine Choy, “Draft of Newsreel/Third World Newsreel Article for Yamagata Film Festival,” . Young cites the formation of at least sixteen branches of Newsreel in cities such as Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Young, Soul Power, . . Buck et al., “Newsreel,” . . Roz Payne on the early Newsreel Collective, . Morgan Adamson offers an incisive reading of Newsreel’s Columbia Revolt in Enduring Images: A Future History of New Left Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), –. . According to Roz Payne, one of the original members of New York Newsreel who worked on the film reports, “The students had taken over  buildings. We had a film team in each building. . . . Our cameras were used as weapons as well as recording the events. Melvin [Margolis] had a W.W. II cast iron steel Bell and Howell camera that could take the shock of breaking plate glass windows.” . Buck et al., “Newsreel,” . . Nichols, “Newsreel” (thesis), –. Young challenges Nichols’s conclusion, arguing that Newsreel films did not serve as “mere reflections” of the New Left, citing, Notes to Pages –


for example, El pueblo se levanta () and Rompiendo puertas () as films dealing with issues that were “by no means at the center of the then disintegrating New Left.” Young, Soul Power, . . Nichols, “Newsreel” (thesis), , , –. Michael Renov argues that Newsreel’s films have much in common with the network television coverage the radical film collective sought to challenge. “Clearly there was a perceived need for immediate coverage of events from a left perspective, but the call for an alternative to ‘the limited and biased coverage’ of the mass media offered no programmatic principles that could contribute to a reconceptualization of standard film and television practices. The very effects that broadcast television had traditionally celebrated as its claim to journalistic superiority over the print media—immediacy, emotional impact, and accessibility—were to be recycled, in unreconstructed from, to serve radical aims.” Renov, “Early Newsreel,” . . Nichols’s study focuses on the slow and uneven development of a MarxistLeninist-Maoist position within the organization. He argues that this stance, first adopted by the San Francisco chapter, was resisted by New York Newsreel, which pursued a more pragmatic, less programmatic approach to political filmmaking, exemplified by Kramer’s emphasis on the importance of “hacking out films . . . whatever way we can.” Nichols, “Newsreel” (thesis), . . See also Young, Soul Power, –. . Bill Nichols, “Newsreel: Film and Revolution,” Cinéaste , no.  (): . . Nichols, “Newsreel” (thesis), –.

Chapter  . Newsfront aired nightly on WNDT, Channel , between : and : p.m. and provided a mix of reporting, news analysis, and panel discussion. Fred Ferretti, “WNDT to Cancel Its Newsfront,” New York Times, July , . . Michel Renov reports that in its first month of release, at least fifty prints of Columbia Revolt were struck. Michael Renov, “Early Newsreel: The Construction of a Political Imaginary for the Left,” in The Subject of Documentary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), . . Jerold M. Starr, Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting (Boston: Beacon Press, ), . . James Day, The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), . . Allan Siegal, “Some Notes about Newsreel and Its Origins,” http://www/page.html. . Frank McLoughlin and William McFadden, “Hippies Smite & Smut a Ch.  Show,” Daily News, June , . . Albin Krebs, “ Hippies Invade TV Show and Shout Obscenities on Air,” New York Times, June , . . Todd Gitlin, “Guerrillas Hit New York,” San Francisco Express Times, July , . Gitlin had been the president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) from  to . In  he published a landmark study of the media and student move194

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ment that analyzes how the media framed its coverage of the movement and worked to delegitimate it by exploiting its internal tensions and vulnerabilities. See Gitlin, Whole World Is Watching. . Herbert Schiller, “Communication and Cultural Domination,” International Journal of Politics , no.  (Winter /): . See also Herbert Schiller, Mass Communication and American Empire (Boston: Beacon Press, ). For a critique of “the media-imperialism thesis,” see Ella Shoat, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ) –. . Upon the film’s completion in , Newsreel elected not to distribute Summer ’, which was judged “too cerebral” by the majority of the group. As a result, it was not as widely seen as other films the collective elected to endorse and distribute. “Unlike Columbia Revolt, Summer ’ never found its audience,” Renov notes. “At a time when the collective was accelerating community outreach toward the previously unorganized and unconvinced—high school students, the working class, Third World peoples—Summer ’, a demanding, densely organized self-examination of the movement within the realm of ideas was a political tool ill-suited to the moment.” Renov, “Early Newsreel,” . . Renov identifies three distinct levels and uses of voice-over during the JFK Airport press conference sequence. “These sound elements illustrate in condensed form the climate of contestation and exchange that enveloped every tactical decision or public gesture.” Renov, “Early Newsreel,” –. . The broadcast was filmed by Eric Breitbart, a member of Newsreel, from David and Barbara Stone’s apartment on West th Street. David Fresko, email to the author, December , . . Shero referenced the widely held belief among the protesters that close ties between the New York Times and the leadership of the university, through the publisher’s position on the board of regents, improperly influenced the paper’s reporting on the protests. Though Roberts became the de facto target of criticism during the Newsfront broadcast, he acknowledged that the Times had given the protesters short shrift. During the protest, he even broke with protocol at the Times to publish a story in the Village Voice attuned to the student’s perspective on the conflict. See Steven V. Roberts, “The University That Refused to Learn,” Village Voice, May , . In  Roberts reflected, “We [the younger staffers at the Times] felt the coverage of Columbia was heavily influenced and tilted toward the police version and the administration version and that the Times would not allow us to give voice to the protesters’ side of things.” Interview with Matthew Pressman, October , , cited in Pressman, “Objectivity and Its Discontents: The Struggle for the Soul of American Journalism in the s and s,” in Media Nation: The Political History of News in Modern America, ed. Bruce J. Schulman and Julian E. Zelizer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ), . . Allan Katzman, “Poor Paranoid’s Almanac,” East Village Other, June , . . Jeff Shero, “Channel  Takeover—First ‘Fuck’ on American TV,” Ratbook, July , ,. A transcript of the entire broadcast appears in the congressional report “Investigation of Students for a Democratic Society, Part -A (Return of Prisoners of War, Data Concerning Camera Notes to Pages –


News, Inc., ‘Newsreel’): Hearings before the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives, Ninety-First Congress, First Session, December – and , ” (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, ). There Shero references Bedford-Stuyvesant rather than Harlem, as he later remembered (see Committee Exhibit no. ). Despite this lapse, the relevance of his point to the recent Columbia protests remains significant. . David Stone, from whose apartment the footage of the Channel  takeover was shot, was at the television station and was one of the seven members of the group arrested, along with Marcia Rizzi, Mike Dannenberg, Stewart (Stu) Bird, Norman Fruchter, Rene Lichtman, and Robert Mead. McLoughlin and McFadden, “Hippies Smite & Smut,” . . Gitlin, “Guerrillas Hit New York,” . . Katzman, “Poor Paranoid’s Almanac,” . . Katzman, “Poor Paranoid’s Almanac,” . . Stefan Bradley, “‘Gym Crow Must Go!’ Black Student Activism at Columbia University, –,” Journal of African American History , no.  (Spring ): . See also Raymond M. Brown, “Race and the Specter of Strategic Blindness,” in A Time to Stir: Columbia ’, ed. Paul Cronin (New York: Columbia University Press, ), . . Stefan Bradley, Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ), –. . See Roger Kahn, Battle of Morningside Heights: Why Students Rebel (New York: W. Morrow, ). . Eric Mann, “The Historic  Struggle against Columbia University,” Counterpunch, April , ,///the-historic- -struggle-against-columbia-university/. . Brown, “Race and the Specter,” . . William Sales, quoted in Mann, “Historic  Struggle.” . For a comprehensive account of political alliances forged and the “struggles for power within such alliances” in the context of radical filmmaking in the United States, see James, Allegories of Cinema, –. . Michael Renov, “Imaging the Other: Representations of Vietnam in Sixties Political Documentary,” in From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film, ed. Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, ), . . Laurie Ouellette examines the phrase “the people” at length in Viewers Like You? How Public TV Failed the People (New York: Columbia University Press, ), –. . Seen this way, media belong to the category Jacques Rancière defines as “the police,” the name he gives to anything that concerns the social, understood as a totality of distinct parts or groups defined by their role, place, interests, and ways of operating. For him “the police” includes not just the police but everything that works to ensure the proper functioning of this social order. See Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steven Corcoran (New York: Continuum, ).


Notes to Pages –

. Ferretti, “WNDT to Cancel Its Newsfront,” . . James Day also recounts the development of The st State, an unconventional local news program that premiered on WNET in , modeled on the newspaper “beat” system, with reporters assigned to cover neighborhoods in the outer boroughs and beyond, including Park Slope, the South Bronx, Williamsburg, Newark, and Co-op City. Day, Vanishing Vision, –. . Day, Vanishing Vision, –. . Robert Shelton, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (New York: Ballantine, ), . . The Videofreex documented the opening of the exhibition in Yoko Ono Show at the Everson Museum (), -museum. . Ono created Fly Piece as an event score consisting of a single word in . The work was first performed in  at the Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo. The Free Time broadcast also included performances of Sweep Piece (), Bag Piece (), and Wrapping Piece (). For an account of the event score as a “linguistically-framed readymade,” see Liz Kotz, “Post-Cagean Aesthetics and the Event Score,” October, no.  (Winter ), –. . Ono’s original script for an earlier silent, short version of the film, Film No.  (), read, “String bottoms together in place of signatures for a petition for peace.” Yoko Ono, “On Film No. Four,” in Thirteen Film Scores by Yoko Ono, London ’, reprinted in Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions (London: Peter Owen, ), n.p. The  version of the film appeared in the Fluxfilm Anthology produced by George Maciunas in , which also featured among its participants Carolee Schneemann and James Tenney. See also Scott MacDonald, “Yoko Ono: Ideas on Film: Interview/Scripts,” Film Quarterly , no.  (): –; Julia Bryan-Wilson, “For Posterity: Yoko Ono,” in Yoko Ono: One Woman Show –, ed. Klaus Biesenbach and Christophe Cherix (New York: Museum of Modern Art, ), –. For an account of the making of Ono’s film Fly (), see Ara Osterweil, Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, ), –. . Many of the pieces Ono performed on Free Time had been performed as part of “Music of the Mind,” a  concert series in Liverpool at the Bluecoat, where they were documented by a TV news crew. PxNJbRtqTPs. . John J. O’Connor, “TV: Experimental Technique Primer,” New York Times, May , . . TV Lab occupied a space called Studio  in the Carnegie International Center at  East th Street, where Newsfront had been filmed between  and . This production space was an auxiliary studio, set apart from the primary broadcasting facilities of Channel , then located in Newark, NJ. . “Television Turns the Cameras on Itself,” Vision News , no.  (August ): . . In an interview with curator John Hanhardt, Russell Connor offers a detailed account of the origins of TV Lab. He explains how he helped initiate the Artist

Notes to Pages –


Television Workshop through his position at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). According to Connor, Channel  came to NYSCA seeking funding for a conventional series about ballet. He advised that they would be more likely to get support for a program that offered artists an opportunity to work with broadcast television. He then wrote up the proposal himself, with input from Nam June Paik, Stan VanDerBeek, and Steina and Woody Vasulka. The program, then, was not initiated from within the leadership at Channel , despite being presented that way after the fact. “Interview of Artist Russell Connor,” with John G. Hanhardt, Smithsonian American Art Museum, July , , connor. . “An Interview with Lab Director David Loxton,” Vision News , no.  (August ): . . In addition to Paik, Emshwiller, and Davis, Shirley Clarke and Dimitri Devyatkin were among the artists-in-residence at TV Lab during this period. . TV Lab’s supervising engineer, John Godfrey, collaborated with Nam June Paik on Global Groove and is credited as a coauthor. . While the pilot for The Television Show did not yield a series of the same name, in  WNET aired a twenty-two-week series entitled VTR: Video and Television Review, which rebroadcast Global Groove and featured many of the other works previewed on The Television Show (including work by TVTV and Ed Emshwiller). The show had a more conventional format than The Television Show, featuring a single work or artist in each episode. For a detailed account of the run of the series, see Russell Connor, “Video Gets a One,” in Video Art: An Anthology, ed. Ira Schneider and Beryl Korot (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, ), –. . For a detailed account of TVTV’s development, see Deirdre Boyle, Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ). See also Joselit, Feedback, –; Kaizen, Against Immediacy, –. . “Television Turns the Cameras on Itself,” . . Diane English offers a humorous account of the chaotic production of Global Groove in a profile of Paik, published in TV Lab’s newsletter. Diane English, “Profile: Nam June Paik, Creator of Global Groove,” Vision News , no.  (October ): –. Global Groove was broadcast in full by WNET, Channel , on January , . . Deirdre Boyle, “O Lucky Man! George Stoney’s Lasting Legacy,” Wide Angle , no.  (): –. . “Television Turns the Cameras on Itself,” . . Loxton interview, . . Gayle Wald, It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . . O’Connor, “TV: Experimental Technique Primer,” . . Davis was also instrumental in the planning of “Open Circuits: An International Conference on the Future of Television,” held at the Museum of Modern Art, January –, . The conference proceedings were published as The New Television: A Public/Private Art, ed. Douglas Davis and Allison Simmons (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ). . Davis explains, “The word ‘Hokkadim’ is derived from the ancient African 198

Notes to Pages –

word ‘Hochet,’ which describes a ritual form of participative music.” Douglas Davis, “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction,” Leonardo , no.  (): –. It remains unclear how Davis came upon this term, or whether his account of it should be taken seriously. Hochet is French for “rattle” and in a francophone context often appears in descriptions of artifacts used in ritual ceremonies, as in “hochet de cérémonie.” For a relevant critique of the way colonial policy in Africa shaped media theory in the s, and Marshall McLuhan’s conception of the “global village” in particular, see Ginger Nolan, The Neocolonialism of the Global Village (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, ). . Jud Yalkut, “Douglas Davis: Open a Channel for Every Mind,” in “Electronic Zen: The Alternate Video Generation” (unpublished manuscript, ), , http:///Yalkut,Jud/ElectronicZen.pdf. . Yalkut, “Davis,” , –. . Cited in Davis, “Work of Art,”  . Douglas Davis’s Black and White Studies I () became the first piece in a four-part series of single-channel video works entitled Studies in Black and White. . Douglas Davis, “Video Obscura,” Artforum , no.  (April ): –. . Yalkut, “Davis,” . . In The Selling of New York, Paik calls attention to the phenomenon that Anna McCarthy identifies as “ambient television,” or the experience of TV monitors outside the home. Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ). . Both Paik and Davis continued to explore the satellite simulcast as a form into the s. For an account of their participation in the Documenta  Satellite Telecast in  that situates it in relation to other contemporary treatments of the satellite broadcast as art, see Kris Paulsen, Here/There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ), –. Other satellite telecasts by Davis include Double Entendre (), which features an exchange between a man and a woman who recite passages from Roland Barthes’s text A Lover’s Discourse facilitated by way of a live satellite hookup between the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New York. Post-Video () documents several of Davis’s other satellite experiments, including Seven Thoughts (), a satellite radio piece staged from inside the Houston Astrodome. In  Davis also produced Ménage à Trois as a live satellite and radio performance linking the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Venice Biennale. After the telecast, he invited audiences at all three locations to participate in a live discussion on National Public Radio. Paik’s satellite broadcasts are perhaps better known than Davis’s and include Good Morning, Mr. Orwell (), broadcast on Channel  on New Year’s Day, , which linked the WNET studio in New York by way of satellite to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Bye Bye Kipling (), hosted by Dick Cavett and produced by WNET, made use of a live satellite link between Japan, Korea, and the United States. In  Paik staged the even more ambitious international production Wrap around the World, connecting the United States, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, and Japan by way of live satellite feed. . Nam June Paik to John J. O’Connor, ca. , Smithsonian American Art Notes to Pages –


Museum, reproduced in Nam June Paik: Global Visionary, . See also Gregory Zinman, “‘As always . . . I love your TV-reportages more than TV itself ’: Nam June Paik’s Letters to John J. O’Connor” (Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, ). . Nam June Paik, “Global Groove and Common Video Market,” Vision News , no.  (October ): .

Chapter  . Brown’s involvement with the civil rights movement began in  when he started to stage benefit concerts for Black political organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In  he visited James Meredith, who had been shot in the back during his “March against Fear.” For an extended account of the circumstances involved in the Boston Garden broadcast, see James Sullivan, The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America (New York: Penguin, ). . For an account of media populism in early experiments with artists’ television and video, see Kaizen, Against Immediacy. . Chapter  addresses the issue of media access at length. . Jack Gould, “TV: Challenge on Racism,” New York Times, May , , . . Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon (New York: Random House, ), . . Meet the Press, a weekly public affairs program broadcast on NBC, debuted in . . Footage of Baldwin’s interview with Clark figures prominently in Raoul Peck’s  film I Am Not Your Negro. . Sasha Torres, Black, White, and in Color: Television and Black Civil Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, ), –. See also Aniko Bodroghkozy, Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, ). . “The Children of Vietnam,” the photo essay by William Pepper that galvanized dissent among artists during the Week of Angry Arts (Ramparts, January ; discussed in chapter ), also made a strong impression on King, influencing his decision to speak publicly about his antiwar views again in . Adam Fairclough, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the War in Vietnam,” Phylon , no.  (): . For a comprehensive account of King’s media strategy after , see Stephen Gordon Foster Smith, “To End War and Poverty: The Media Strategy of Martin Luther King, Jr., January , , to April , ” (master’s thesis, Concordia University, ). . King officially launched the Poor People’s Campaign in December  with a call for a march on the nation’s capital followed by an extended occupation of the Washington Mall during the summer of . . “Dr. King’s Error,” New York Times, April , . See also “A Tragedy,” Washington Post, April , . . Letter to Martin Luther King Jr. from Prentiss Childs and Ellen Wadley, coproducers of CBS’s Face the Nation, April , . Martin Luther King Jr. papers, Library and Archives of the King Center for Nonviolent Change in Atlanta, Georgia. 200

Notes to Pages –

. Ouellette, Viewers Like You?, . . See Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere; Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere”; Warner, Publics and Counterpublics. . Stan VanDerBeek, “A Rough Outline of the ‘Violence Sonata’ concept for TV” (November , ), . VanDerBeek file, WGBH Archives, Boston. . Ouellette, Viewers Like You?, . . VanDerBeek’s use of the phrase “balance the senses” references Marshall McLuhan’s influential account of “sense ratios.” VanDerBeek, “Rough Outline,” . All media, McLuhan argues, are “extensions of human faculties, psychic or physical.” Introduction of a new technology or invention causes “our bodies and senses to shift into new positions in order to maintain equilibrium.” Electronic media extend and externalize the central nervous system itself. Violence Sonata takes seriously McLuhan’s proposition that the artist “can correct the sense ratios before the blow of new technology has numbed conscious procedures.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, ), , , . . Shamberg, Guerrilla Television, b. See the introduction for a longer discussion of Guerrilla Television. . Despite these differences in orientation, as Sutton notes, VanDerBeek was included in Radical Software’s “Cultural Databank” resource exchange, and their paths did intersect at various conferences and events. Sutton, Experience Machine, –, . . See chapter  for a discussion of “open channels.” . Stan VanDerBeek, “The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground,” Film Quarterly , no.  (Summer, ): –. . Sheldon Renan reports that in the eighteen months VanDerBeek had access to CBS through his position at Winky Dink and You, he completed What Who How (), Visioniii (), and Mankinda (–). He also worked on material that would find its way into Yet (), Street Meet (), Astral Man (), and Ala Mode (). Renan, Introduction to the American Underground Film, –. . VanDerBeek relays the story of his surreptitious tenure at CBS in an unpublished interview with Richard Kostelantz, cited by Gloria Sutton, “Stan VanDerBeek: Collage Experience,” in Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom (Cambridge, MA: MIT List Visual Arts Center/Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, ), . . For a longer discussion of VanDerBeek’s emergence as an unofficial spokesperson for underground cinema, see Andrew Uroskie, “From Pictorial Collage to Intermedia Assemblage: Variations V () and the Cagean Origins of VanDerBeek’s Expanded Cinema,” Animation , no.  (July ): . . While his previous professional ties to CBS and the relatively modest acclaim he had achieved as an underground filmmaker may have emboldened VanDerBeek to propose the idea of an artist’s residency at the network, his return to CBS was also enabled by a new, provisional openness toward collaborations between artists and corporations. In  a number of enterprises bringing together artists and technicians were established: the Artist Placement Group was founded to bring together artists and corporations in Britain, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was created by Bell Labs scientist Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg to pair artists and Notes to Pages –


engineers, and the Art and Technology Program was established by curator Maurice Tuchman at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to integrate artists within think tanks and technology firms. . Most artists did not yet have access to video technology in . Two notable exceptions are Nam June Paik and Andy Warhol. On Paik’s early access to a Sony Port-a-Pak, see Ken Hakuta, “My Uncle Nam June,” in Nam June Paik: Global Visionary, ed. John Hanhardt and Ken Hakuta (Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, ), –. On Warhol’s use of the portable Norelco Video System in , see Kaizen, Against Immediacy, –. . VanDerBeek also used the title Panels for the Walls of the World to refer to a mural project commissioned by the Walker Art Center that he completed in , while a research fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (a position he held while in residence at WGBH Boston). The mural was transmitted one panel at a time by telephone using a Xerox machine called a Telecopier. Using this early version of the fax machine, he sent the mural from MIT to various remote sites, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Over the course of the exhibition, he updated the work by replacing individual panels. This fax machine mural, like the earlier video that shares its name, treats the image as something to be endlessly reconfigured and transmitted from one site to another. . Jud Yalkut, “The Filmmaker as Video Artist: , Stan VanDerBeek,” in “Electronic Zen: The Alternate Video Generation” (unpublished manuscript, ), ,/Yalkut,Jud/ElectronicZen.pdf . VanDerBeek’s remark recalls a similar observation by Bruce Conner, a fellow awardee of the Ford Foundation’s filmmaking grant in , who was also working at the intersection between film and television, as discussed in chapter . . Under Paley’s direction, CBS grew from a radio network of sixteen affiliate stations in the late s to the largest radio network in the United States by . He pursued a strategy of producing “prestige programming,” with a particular focus on high-quality original broadcast journalism. CBS established its news division in , but it was Edward R. Murrow’s live radio broadcasts from Europe in the years leading up to World War II that finally brought this plan to fruition. Gary Paul Gates, Air Time: The Inside Story of CBS News (New York: Harper & Row, ), . On war reportage at CBS, see Erik Barnouw, A History of Broadcasting in the United States, vol. , Golden Web (New York: Oxford University Press, ), –. See also Philip Seib, Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, ). . Mike Conway, The Origins of Television News in America: The Visualizers of CBS in the s (New York: Peter Lang, ), –. . The first transatlantic satellite transmission took place in July . . On equivocal aesthetic experiences, see Adam Jasper, “Our Aesthetic Categories: An Interview with Sianne Ngai,” Cabinet Magazine  (Fall ): –. . Stan VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal and Manifesto,” Film Culture  (Spring ): –. Gloria Sutton delineates another important source of inspiration for the Culture Intercom essay in the Vision  confer-


Notes to Pages –

ence that VanDerBeek attended along with Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller just before putting his ideas to paper. This conference and its ambitions have much to do with the tone of the essay, which is polemical in simultaneously utopian and dystopian registers. Sutton, Experience Machine, –. For an account of Buckminster Fuller’s experiments with dome architecture at Black Mountain College and its influence on VanDerBeek’s construction of the Movie-Drome, see also Sutton, Experience Machine, . . The “Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal and Manifesto” was first published by VanDerBeek as a mimeographed pamphlet in . It was republished in Film Culture  (Spring ): –; Motive (November ): –; and Tulane Drama Review , no.  (Autumn ): –. . Like his contemporaries Bruce Conner and Nam June Paik, VanDerBeek’s preoccupations as an artist were strongly impacted by the Cold War. . VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom,” . . VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom,” . . Cage’s aleatory aesthetics were an important influence on VanDerBeek. For a comprehensive account of VanDerBeek’s collaboration with Cage on Variations V in , see Uroskie, “From Pictorial Collage to Intermedia Assemblage.” The role of emotion in the work of Cage and VanDerBeek differed significantly. VanDerBeek was interested in emotional perception as something to be managed through feedback. Cage’s compositional strategies were designed to alleviate what he considered music’s coercive demand for emotional identification; in other words, emotion was something to be left aside altogether. In an essay entitled “Where Are We Going? And What Are We Doing?” () Cage writes, “We are leaving our emotions where they are in each one of us. One of us is not trying to put his emotions into someone else. That way you ‘rouse rabble’; it seems on the surface humane, but it animalizes and we’re not doing it.” Branden Joseph cites this passage in his discussion of the contradictions built into Cage’s anarchic aesthetics. See Branden W. Joseph, “HPSCHD—Ghost or Monster,” in Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundation of the Digital Arts (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), –. During the period in which he was working on the Movie-Drome, VanDerBeek was aligned with Cage’s technoutopianism and, like Cage, had an optimistic understanding of the capacity of technology to apolitically influence social life. Like Cage (and his contemporaries Fuller and McLuhan), VanDerBeek saw technology as neutral and autonomously opposed to the vested interests of the state and the market. VanDerBeek was confronted with the limits of this position when he left the Movie-Drome behind to produce Violence Sonata at WGBH. . VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom,” . . Yalkut, “Filmmaker as Video Artist,” . . László Moholy-Nagy, “Education and the Bauhaus,” Focus  (Winter ), reprinted in Moholy-Nagy, ed. Richard Kostelanetz and László Moholy-Nagy (New York: Praeger, ), . . Turner, Democratic Surround, . . György Kepes writes, “Visual language is capable of disseminating knowledge

Notes to Pages –


more effectively than almost any other vehicle of communication. With it, man can express and relay his experiences in object form. Visual communication is universal and international; it knows no limits of tongue, vocabulary, or grammar, and it can be perceived by the illiterate as well as by the literate.” György Kepes, Language of Vision (Chicago: Paul Theobald, ), . In  VanDerBeek was awarded a residency at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, established by Kepes in  but run by artist Otto Piene in . VanDerBeek held the position while he was in residence at WGBH. See Fred Barzyk, “Statements on VanDerBeek from Artists, Filmmakers, TV Producers, Historians, and Scientists,” Animation , no.  (July ): –. . Kepes, Language of Vision,  . Melissa Ragain, “From Organization to Network: MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies,” X-TRA: Contemporary Art Quarterly , no.  (Spring ): . . Stan VanDerBeek, “Disposable Art—Synthetic Media—and Artificial Intelligence,” Take One (January/February ): . . Marshall McLuhan, “The Invisible Environment: The Future of an Erosion,” Perspecta  (): . . Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes, . . Gloria Sutton situates the “networked” subject addressed by the Movie-Drome between the “singular viewing subject understood as the bourgeois individual” and the subject of “corporate capitalism,” a figure who functions like “a node within an interactive social network.” Sutton, “Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome,” . . VanDerBeek sometimes enlisted his wife and children to help during these performances. August VanDerBeek recalls she and her brother “walking around with tape players of ocean sounds or airplane sounds” on certain occasions. “Stan VanDerBeek: Film on The Cutting Edge,” Weekend Edition, NPR, July , , https://////stan-vanderbeek-film-on-the-cutting-edge. . Turner, Democratic Surround, . . VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom,” . . Yalkut, “Filmmaker as Video Artist,” . . The title Violence Sonata may have been an oblique reference to Nam June Paik’s use of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in his contribution to The Medium Is the Medium, Electronic Opera #. . VanDerBeek, “Rough Outline,” . . WGBH broadcast on both VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra-high frequency) channels. After  most television sets had two dials: a VHF tuner that selected channels – and a UHF tuner for channels – (later –). VanDerBeek adopted the idea of using both channels from a broadcast staged at WGBH the previous year by David Silver on his program What’s Happening Mr. Silver, which also explored the use of immediate feedback from viewers invited into the studio. Fred Barzyk, phone conversation with the author, July , . . Jill Johnston, “Thanks for the Zonkers,” Village Voice, January , . . Barzyk, “Statements on VanDerBeek,” . . Gerald O’Grady, “Stan VanDerBeek’s Violence Sonata Realized in and on Channels  and , WGBH-TV, Boston, January , ,” . VanDerBeek file, WGBH Archives, Boston. 204

Notes to Pages –

. Jud Yalkut, “Stan VanDerBeek: The Violence Sonata,” East Village Other, February , . . O’Grady, “VanDerBeek’s Violence Sonata Realized,” . For a detailed description of Violence Sonata, see Kaizen, Against Immediacy, –. . VanDerBeek proposed a setup where each operator would be selected to represent a different point of view, “i.e., radical student, police officer, conservative.” VanDerBeek, “Rough Outline,” . . Don Fouser was a producer at WGBH, known for his work on public interest programs dealing with controversial issues. In , for example, he produced a series called The Radical Americans, which devoted episodes to the New Left, the John Birch Society, and Black militant movements. Open Vault WGBH, “Radical Americans,”AADDFEDBDCFDDA. After hosting Violence Sonata, Fouser became the executive producer of The Nader Report, a public affairs program hosted by Ralph Nader, which premiered in November . Fouser was fired from WGBH after a dispute with general manager Michael Rice over an episode of Nader’s show that was critical of one of the station’s underwriters. Barzyk explains that he chose Fouser to host Violence Sonata because he was known to have a hot temper. Once when a vending machine broke, Barzyk recounts, Fouser punched through the glass with his fist in order to retrieve his selection. Fred Barzyk, phone conversation with the author, July , . . Anthony LaCamera, “Special on Violence Wastes Time, Film,” Record American Boston, January , . . Percy Shain, “‘Violence Sonata’ Emotional Turn-on Time,” Boston Evening Globe, January , . . Stan VanDerBeek, “Jan. , , re: Violence Sonata,” VanDerBeek file, WGBH Archives, Boston. See also Mark Bartlett, “Strategic Canonization and the Audio-Vision-ary Pragmatics of Stan VanDerBeek’s Culture: Intercom,” Animation , no.  (July ): . . Laurie Ouellette cites an example where the producers of the series Public Broadcast Laboratory staged an argument between “Black revolutionaries and middleclass whites,” an approach Gould criticized in the New York Times “as a ‘screaming match’ that sacrificed rational debate to unmanaged emotions.” The series was created by the Ford Foundation in  and took the form of a live Sunday-night magazine program. Ouellette, Viewers Like You?, . . Ouellette, Viewers Like You?, . . Ouellette, Viewers Like You?, . . Yalkut, “VanDerBeek,” . . The staging of this scene calls to mind Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s wellpublicized protest actions in the spring of . For an insightful account of Bed-In for Peace, see Nixon, “What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do with It,” –. . The woman is played by Joan White, a receptionist at the station asked to do the scene by Barzyk. The man is played by Alex Pirie. Fred Barzyk, phone conversation with the author, July , . The scene was shot in two separate takes without any script or special direction. In the first, Pirie and White sat back-to-back on rotating stools and discussed, among other things, Dick Gregory’s recent presidential campaign. Notes to Pages –


Some of this footage appears at the beginning of the sequence. In the second take, Pirie and White pick up the earlier conversation while lying in bed. Only the second conversation was aired as part of Violence Sonata. Alex Pirie, phone conversation with the author, August , . Pirie recounts how he “accidentally wound up having the male role in the first interracial bed scene ever broadcast nationally on NET (not by the southern stations!),” explaining that he had “built a rotating bed for the set and when the white male actor backed out, Stan convinced me to do it.” “Alex Pirie,” WGBH Alumni: Pioneers in Public Media, . O’Grady, “VanDerBeek’s Violence Sonata Realized,” . . VanDerBeek, “Culture Intercom,” . . VanDerBeek, “Rough Outline,” . . José Muñoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), . Sasha Torres, drawing upon Muñoz’s use of the phrase “the burden of liveness,” argues that in “the context of the southern civil rights movement, bearing the ‘burden of liveness’ required movement workers to produce arresting televisual images juxtaposing peaceful protest with physical suffering at the hands of violent segregationists,” which she likens to King’s efforts to persuade “Blacks to embrace the redemptive promise of suffering on their own behalf and on that of future generations—and his customary figuration of that project of bearing a burden, usually a cross.” Torres, Black, White, and in Color, . . Kenneth B. Clark, “Similarities and Differences,” in The Negro Protest (Boston: Beacon Press, ), . . Torres, Black, White, and in Color, . . Adrienne Mancia and Willard Van Dyke, “Four Artists as Film-Makers,” Art in America , no.  (): . . For an extended discussion of VanDerBeek’s attempts to develop modes of perception that could accommodate the “challenges of the Nuclear Age,” see Jacob Proctor, “From the Ivory Tower to the Control Room,” in Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom, ed. Bill Arning and João Ribas (Cambridge, MA: MIT List Center, ). –. . As VanDerBeek explained in a talk delivered in , “I think we’re in a period of what I’d like to call approximate art and I may even say that none of this stuff is art, but this may all be . . . simply a model of perception.” Stan VanDerBeek, unpublished transcript of talk at the conference “Autobiography and the American Cinema,” Center for Media Study, State University of New York, Buffalo, . VanDerBeek Archive, Film Department, Museum of Modern Art, New York, n.p. Quoted in Mark Bartlett, “VanDerBeek Re:animated,” Animation , no.  (July ): . . Devorah Heitner, Black Power TV (Raleigh, NC: Duke University Press, ), . . Heitner, Black Power TV, –. . Devorah Heitner identifies different strategies employed to address marginalized publics. An “enclave” strategy promotes “counterhegemonic ideas” covertly to avoid censure or sanctions “while internally producing lively debate and planning.” She compares this approach to “counterpublic strategies” that, under less restric-


Notes to Pages –

tive circumstances, make space for debate with “wider publics through legal means, media critiques, or protest techniques.” Finally, the strategy of establishing a “satellite public” involves consciously withdrawing or separating from other publics while only occasionally participating in wider public discourse. Heitner argues that local and nationally broadcast Black public affairs programs produced after , such as Say Brother on WGBH, engaged in a combination of enclave and counterpublic strategies. Heitner, Black Power TV, –. . Heitner, Black Power TV, –. At the time of his appearance in Violence Sonata, Alex Pirie was working as a production assistant on Say Brother, one of the only white staffers on the program. After the conflict over the coverage of the New Bedford uprising, he quit along with most of the other staff. Alex Pirie, phone conversation with the author, August , .

Conclusion . Aldo Tambellini, “Statement on Black TV (),” http://www.aldotambellini .com/blacktv.html. . In  Tate Modern presented Tambellini’s Retracing Black () as part of the series “The Tanks: Art in Action.” Like Black Matters and The Black TV Project, Retracing Black incorporated previously unseen material recorded by the artist in the s alongside hand-painted slides,  mm films from the Black Film Series, and early video work. This work marked a retrospective turn in Tambellini’s work, driven by curatorial efforts to establish his work as an important precedent for contemporary artists’ engagements with film and media. . Television and media scholars have developed a rich discourse around television’s shifting relationship to broadcasting as a mode of distribution, considering not only the technological changes that have enabled this shift but also the cultural and political implications for understanding media more broadly. See, e.g., Jan Olsson and Lynn Spigel, eds., Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ); Graeme Turner and Jinna Tay, eds., Television Studies after TV: Understanding Television in the Post-Broadcast Era (New York: Routledge, ); Graeme Turner, Re-Inventing the Media (New York: Routledge, ). . Hal Foster identifies an “archival impulse with a distinctive character of its own” in contemporary art of the early s. Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse,” October, no.  (Autumn ), –. . Tambellini’s recent installations partake in the broader exploration of televisual memory in contemporary art, prompted by what Maeve Connolly describes as “television’s relativization and remediation by newer and older media.” Connolly traces several waves of artists’ engagements with television in the mid-s, s, and late s, noting the distinction between earlier works that reflect on the shared experience of “media events,” such as Ant Farm’s The Eternal Frame () and Andrei Ujică and Harun Farocki’s Videogrammes of a Revolution (), and more recent works that recall habits and routines of viewing that allow artists to foreground the “absences and failures that characterize the relationship between television and collective memory.” Maeve Connolly, TV Museum: Contemporary Art and the Age of Television (Bristol:

Notes to Pages –


Intellect, ), –. For a related account of the archival document as an “experience of reception” in recent found footage filmmaking, see Jaimie Baron, The Archive Effect: Found Footage and the Audiovisual Experience of History (New York: Routledge, ), . . Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi, Aldo Tambellini: Black Matters (Karlsruhe: ZKM, ), n.p. . Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, ),  . I discuss Santiago Álvarez’s film Now in greater detail in Erica Levin, “Social Media and the New Newsreel,” Media-N , no.  (Fall ), http://median social-media-and-the-new-newsreel/. . Martin Berger’s analysis of photojournalism during the civil rights movement reveals that periodicals that understood their readership to be majority white were more likely to publish photographs of Black protesters offering no resistance to police, whereas reports of the same events in the Black press were often illustrated with photographs depicting Black protesters actively resisting police. Berger concludes that the most widely reproduced images of civil rights struggle aimed to elicit white sympathy for dignified and embattled Black protesters but, in doing so, depicted racism as a spectacle of excessive brutality rather than a form of systemic inequality in which even liberal, sympathetic whites could be implicated. Martin Berger, Seeing Through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (Berkeley: University of California Press, ). . The Black TV Project () appeared at the Acud Gallery in Berlin, September –, , curated by Atelier Impopulaire (Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi). . Tambellini’s Black Film Series includes Blackout (), Black Is (), Black Trip (), Black Plus X (), and Black Trip  (). . Aldo Tambellini, “Black,” Arts/Canada, no.  (October ), . Nadja Millner-Larsen links “the convergence of modernist investments in abstraction” in Tambellini’s electromedia environments and performances of the s to the artist’s critique of racialized violence, which she reads as a “profound crisis of representation” prompted by the shift from civil rights to Black Power. Millner-Larsen, “Subject of Black,” . Tambellini pursed the implications of this crisis as a fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) between  and . In  he founded a group called Communicationsphere, a term that describes a “new environment” where “invisible processes take place through waves in the sky.” The projects he completed at CAVS imagined new systems of communication that would open channels between artists, engineers, and anyone else interested in understanding telecommunications as the next frontier for art. Rather than showing tapes in a gallery, he urged artists to employ “satellites, two-way cable, and large networks” to produce “art versions of Monday NFL Football or Ted Turner’s all-news network.” Embracing transmitted information as a new form of creative practice, Tambellini declared, “The age of Communicationsphere dissolves the line between life and art.” Aldo Tambellini, “Statement (),” in Centervideo (Cambridge, MA: Center for Advanced Visual


Notes to Pages –

Studies at MIT, ), reprinted on the artist’s website, http://www.aldotambellini .com/mit.html. . Tambellini, “Black,” . . blknws was featured in the th Venice Biennale in  at two separate sites. It was also presented as a newsreel at eleven art-house cinemas around the United States, an initiative sponsored by the Sundance Institute, and appeared as a continuous stream at various sites associated with the Sundance Film Festival during the run of the event in .f-bc- -bfd-ebfa. . Patricia Hickson, Kahlil Joseph: Matrix  (Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, ). . A map and full list of sites where blknws appeared during the  Made in L.A. exhibition can be found at . Maeve Connolly notes that in the European context, broadcasting (in its public service form) operates as an important, if contested, “signifier of publicness” in contemporary art. She argues that recent interest in television in contemporary art is concerned with the values and mandates associated with public broadcasting: “the promotion of civil society, the production or maintenance of social bonds, and the representation of minority views and interests.” Her analysis focuses on works made in the s that do not involve the display of television screens in public. Connolly, TV Museum, –. . Anna McCarthy argues that the “diverse site-specific practices of television convey the spatial complexity of the medium, its ability both to position people in physical locations and to render visible the entwined domains of contest, control, and consumption that define such places within broader cultural logics of space.” McCarthy, Ambient Television, . Nancy Fraser uses the term “subaltern counterpublics” to describe “parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere,” . See also Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics,” Public Culture , no.  (): –; Warner, Publics and Counterpublics. . See also Wald, It’s Been Beautiful; Christine Acham, “Was the Revolution Televised? Network News and Black Journal,” in Revolution Televised: Prime Time and the Struggle for Black Power (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ), –. . Heitner, Black Power TV, . . blknws includes a sequence in which Arthur Jafa cites John Akomfrah to explain, “Essentially what we are trying to do is put a series of things into some sort of affective proximity to one another and figure out what they do as a consequence of that.” https://serpentine-uploads.s//arthur_jafa_in _conversation.pdf. . Alessandra Raengo, “The Heat Is On,” Refract , no.  (): . . Raengo, “Heat Is On,” . Raengo’s description of blknws resonates with Michael Gillespie’s account of black film as an “always disruptive surprise” (borrowing the phrase from Fred Moten), posing “new paradigms for genre, narrative, aesthet-

Notes to Pages –


ics, historiography, and intertextuality.” Gillespie’s use of the phrase “film blackness” challenges the common tendency to presume an indexical or realist link between black film and Black social life. He argues, “film blackness thickens with the irreducible character of blackness and the radical capacity of black visual and expressive culture, a difference that ceaselessly divides and recasts.” Michael Boyce Gillespie, Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . . Raengo reads blknws’s embrace of the news genre as a pretext for addressing the “blackness of social media platforms” or what she calls “digital blackness.” “Here black digitality is only channeling perhaps in more explicit ways already ‘compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed’ black modes of being.” Raengo, “Heat Is On,” –. Here, Raengo is riffing on Aria Dean’s observation: “We have long been digital, ‘compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed’ across time and space. For blackness, the meme could be a way of further figuring an existence that spills over the bounds of the body, a homecoming into our homelessness.” See Aria Dean, “Poor Meme, Rich Meme,” July , , Sondra Perry republished Dean’s essay in a zine entitled . Nothing No Confidence No=Nothing No=, distributed by a roving vacuum robot during the exhibition in a work entitled Roomba (). The publication, now available on the artist’s website, also includes contributions by manuel arturo abreu, Hannah Black, Robert Jones Jr., Sable Elyse Smith, Hito Steyerl, and Lumi Tan.jq YtEtSDTStdFNuNbnQYSVsWJZa/view. . The experience of viewing television offered by Resident Evil is further estranged by its proximity to another work, entitled Historic Jamestowne: Share in the Discovery and Take Several Seats (), which takes the form of a spray-painted sofa propped up on cinder blocks and smeared with electric blue S-Curl Activator under a vinyl cover. Perry has described Historic Jamestowne as an homage to a scene in the movie Coming to America, starring Eddie Murphy, where three characters sitting on a couch stand up to reveal three spots of residue left behind by the fictional hair product Soul Glo. In an interview, Perry explains, “You have two American men making a film about a fictional African country and there’s the contrast of Black folks from the states and Black folks from the continent. I was thinking about this family of upwardly mobile Black people who make a fortune on selling other Black folks things that change their visage in order to assimilate. There’s something complex about what it takes to be an upper-class, upwardly mobile Black person. Maybe you have to shapeshift. In that shapeshifting, there is this kind of grotesque thing that happens. They left a mark of themselves, like on this couch. I’d wanted to make this couch for a really long time and I finally did.” “Sondra Perry: Opening Up through Technology and Media,” SAMBlog, November , ,//get-to-know -sondra-perry/. . Simone Browne defines “racializing surveillance” as “a technology of social control where surveillance practices, policies, and performances concern the production of norms pertaining to race and exercise a ‘power to define what is in or out of place.’” Racializing surveillance, she argues, “signals those moments when enactments


Notes to Page 

of surveillance reify boundaries, borders, and bodies along racial lines, and where the outcome is often discriminatory treatment of those who are negatively racialized by such surveillance.” Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . . Chroma-key technology relies on the separation of color video (or film) into red, blue, and green channels or layers. Blue screens are commonly used in film, whereas green is more prevalent in television production because color television cameras (and most digital cameras) capture and store the blue and red channels at half the resolution of green. The lower resolution of these channels may create edge artifacts if used for keying. Perry uses chroma-key green in Lineage for a MultipleMonitor Workstation: Number One (). For a related account of chroma-keying in Perry’s work as a “dual metaphor” for hypervisibility and concealment, see Megan Driscoll, “The Technicity of Blackness: On Failures and Fissures in the Art of Sondra Perry,” Art Journal  no.  (): –. . “Tragedy Gives the Hoodie a Whole New Meaning,” NPR .org, March , ,////tragedy-gives-the-hoodie-a-whole-new -meaning. . Simone Browne borrows the term “sousveillance” from Steve Mann, who defines it as “observing and recording by an entity not in a position of power or authority over the subject of the veillance.” Browne, Dark Matters, . . Miriam De Rosa observes that in desktop documentaries, the space of the desktop operates as “the unique and synthetic site of those which once were the components of the filmic apparatus: it is the place of researching and gathering information; the place of recording, as it becomes the set; that of editing as well as of post-production and possibly distribution, screening and circulation.” Miriam De Rosa, “Digital Premonitions: Curatorial Notes on Post-Internet Aesthetics.” http:///. See also Miriam De Rosa and Wanda Strauven, “Screenic (Re)orientations: Desktop, Tabletop, Tablet, Booklet, Touchscreen, Etc.,” in Screen Space Reconfigured, ed. Susanne Ø. Sæther and Synne T. Bull (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, ), –. . Dean, “Poor Meme,” n.p. . In an essay on Perry’s exhibition Typhoon coming on (), presented at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Arabella Stanger argues that dispersal operates in Perry’s work as a strategy for the “evasion of capture by the racializing apparatus of liberal humanism.” Arabella Stanger, “Bodily Wreckage, Economic Salvage and the Middle Passage in Sondra Perry’s Typhoon coming on,” Performance Research , no.  (): . . Soyoung Yoon observes that the survival-horror video-game genre, inaugurated by the Resident Evil franchise, emphasizes “the player’s vulnerability and lack of control over a hostile environment.” Soyoung Yoon, “Figure versus Ground, White versus Black (Blue); or, Sondra Perry’s Blue Room and Technologies of Race,” in Sondra Perry: Typhoon coming on, ed. Sondra Perry, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Yana Peel (London: Serpentine Galleries/Koenig Books, ), . . Yoon, “Figure versus Ground,” .

Notes to Pages –


. Gaines was shot by police in her own home after a six-hour standoff that also left her five-year-old son Kodi injured. Her family was awarded a $ million settlement by a jury that found Royce Ruby, the officer who fired the fatal shots, did not act reasonably during the encounter. Tim Prudente, “Appeals Court Finds Judge Erred in Wiping Out $ Million Verdict over Police Shooting of Korryn Gaines,” Baltimore Sun, July , . . Tamar Clarke-Brown, “Adrift in the Chroma Key Blues: A Chat with Sondra Perry on Black Radicality + Things That Are Yet to Happen in Typhoon coming on,” AQNB, May , ,///adrift-in-the-chroma-key -blues-a-chat-with-sondra-perry-on-black-radicalitythings-that-are-yet-to-happen-in -typhoon-coming-on/. . Clark-Brown, “Adrift,” n.p. . Clark-Brown, “Adrift,” n.p. Perry’s comments recall the long history of associations between oceanic metaphors, the spirit realm, and broadcast media. Jeffrey Sconce offers a relevant account of wireless technology at the turn of the twentieth century, understood as “a melancholy realm of abandoned bodies and dispersed consciousness.” Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ), . Perry explores the medium and channeling as a trope situated between the spiritual realm and technology in her work Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation (). . Uricchio, “Constructing Television,” . . Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, ).


Notes to Pages –


Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. ABC (network), , , , n, n, n Abe, Shuya, , ,  Adorno, Theodor, “How to Look at Television,” – Akomfrah, John, , n algorithmic filters, ,  Alternative Media Center,  Álvarez, Santiago, NOW!, – “ambient television,” , , n analog broadcasting, , n Ant Farm, The Eternal Frame, n antiwar movement, , , , ; “from dissent to resistance,” –, –; King’s antiwar stance, , –, , n, n; March on the Pentagon, , , –, , , ; Newsreel, , , , –, n; police violence against protesters, , , , , , nn–; “Yip-In” at Grand Central Station, , , nn–. See also Snows (Schneemann); Week of Angry Arts Arlen, Michael, , n Art and Technology Program, n

Artist Placement Group, n artists’ television, , , , , , , ; KQED, n. See also TV Lab; WGBH; WNET Artist Television Workshop,  assassinations. See Kennedy, John F., assassination; Kennedy, Robert F.; King, Martin Luther, Jr. Atelier Impopulaire, , n AT&T, A Continent Is Bridged, –, , n Atkins, Tom,  audiovisual noise, , , , , ; feedback as means of producing, ; in Snows, , ,  avant-garde filmmaking, , ; “avantgarde newsreel,” , , , n Baldwin, James, ; Kenneth Clark’s interview with, , –, –, n Baraka, Amiri,  Baranik, Rudolf, , n Barzyk, Fred, , , , n, n

Bateson, Gregory,  Bauhaus,  Belafonte, Harry,  Bell & Howell cameras, , n Bell Labs, , n, n, n Benjamin, Walter, , n, n Berger, John, n Berger, Martin, n Bird, Stu, n, n Black liberation, , , ,  Black Lives Matter,  Black Mountain College, , , , n Black Muslims,  blackness: blknws and, , n; “film blackness,” n; Perry and, , ; Tambellini and, , – ,  Black Panthers,   Black Power, , , n Black TV (Tambellini), –, , , , ; Bolex camera, , ; electromedia environment, , , , , , ; experimental broadcast/Black Gate Cologne, , ; Lumagrams, ; as single-channel, split-screen film, –,  blknws (Joseph), , –, , , , –n, plate ; “affective proximity,” , n; blackness and, , n; Made in L.A. and other venues, , n, n, plate  Blue Van Films,  Bolex camera, , ,  Boyd, Lorraine, n Brakhage, Stan, n, n Brecht, George,  Brockman, John, n, n Brown, H. Rap,  Brown, James: civil rights movement, n; concert at Boston Garden, , –, ,  Brown, Ralph, 



Browne, Simone, , –n, n cable television news, , , , ,  Cage, John, , n; chance operations, , n, n; De Antonio and, , , –n; Dunns and, ; Global Groove, ; Judson Dance Theater, , n; Schneemann compared with, n; Untitled Event, , n; VanDerBeek and, , n; “Where Are We Going? And What Are We Doing?,” n; Zen Buddhism, , nn– Carmichael, Stokely,  Castle Films: John Fitzgerald Kennedy— Man and President, –, ; News Parade, , , , , n, n Cavett, Dick, n CBS (network), , , ; ArmyMcCarthy Senate hearings, ; expansion of nightly newscasts, ; Face the Nation, ; The Great Society, ; Hunger in America, ; John F. Kennedy’s assassination and funeral, , , –, n, n, n; March on the Pentagon, n; Paley as head of, –, , –, n; shooting of Oswald, , n; The Shooting of Senator Kennedy, ; VanDerBeek’s employment and surreptitious returns to, , nn–, n; VanDerBeek’s residency at, –, , n. See also November nd and the Warren Report Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), MIT, n, n, n, n chance operations, –; Cage and, , n, n; Judson Dance

Theater and, , n, n; Schneemann and, –, , ,  Channel , Newsreel’s temporary occupation of, –, –, , n; on-air profanity, –, ; in Summer ’, , . See also WNDT; WNET channeled image, –, –, –, , –; in contemporary art, , –, , , , n Chappelle, Dave,  “Children of Vietnam, The” (Pepper), , , n, plate  Chomsky, Noam,  chroma-key technology, , , , , n civil rights movement, , , , , –, , n, n; James Brown and, n; Robert Kennedy and, , ; The Negro and the American Promise, , –, –; photojournalism during, , n; television as political tool in, ,  Clark, Kenneth, , , –, – , n Clarke, Shirley, n Clemons, Acquilla,  Coe, Robert,  Cold War, ; Bikini Atoll, n; Conner and, , , n; Glimpses of the U.S.A., , –, n; liberalism, , ; mushroom clouds, , ; mutually assured destruction, , ; Paik and, , n; VanDerBeek and, –, –, n collage, , , , , , , n; “collage principle,” n; Point of Order as, ; VanDerBeek and, , , , , , , , ; Violence Sonata and, , , ; Wipe Cycle,  Columbia Revolt (Newsreel), , –,

, nn–; success of, , ; Summer ’ compared with, , n, n Columbia University, , n, n, n; protests, –, – , , n, n. See also Columbia Revolt (Newsreel) Congress of Racial Equality (CORE),  Conner, Bruce: assemblages, , ; Cold War and, , , n; cosmic ray, , ; crossroads, n; eve-ray-forever, , , n; junk and scavenging, –, ; looped projections, , , ; a movie, , –, n, n, n; rapid cuts, ; raster lines, ; roll bars, , , ; slow motion, –, , n; three screen ray, n; titles of works, n. See also report (Conner); television assassination (Conner) Connor, Bull,  Connor, Russell, –, , –n Conrad, Tony, The Flicker, n Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), ,  counterpublics, , , , n, –n; subaltern, n Cronkite, Walter, , , , , , , n crosscutting, ,  Cunningham, Merce, –, n, n Curry, Jesse,  cybernetics, , ,  Daily News, , ,  Dannenberg, Mark, n Davis, Angela, ,  Davis, Douglas, , ; Black and White Studies I, , n; Double Entendre, n; Electronic Hokkadim, –, –n; Images from the



Davis, Douglas (continued) Present Tense, ; Ménage à Trois, n; “Open Circuits” conference, n; Post-Video, n; Present Tense, , , ; satellite broadcasts, , n; Seven Thoughts, n; Studies in Black and White, n; Suite , , , plates – ; “Video Obscura,” –; WNET, , , ,  Davis, Noah,  Day, James, –, n Dean, Aria, , n de Antonio, Emile, , –nn–; Cage as influence on, , , –n; Point of Order, –, n; scavenging, , n. See also Rush to Judgment (De Antonio) Democratic National Convention (DNC), Chicago, , protests and police violence, , , . See also Summer ’ (Newsreel) demonstrations and protests. See Columbia University; Democratic National Convention (DNC), Chicago, ; Week of Angry Arts desktop editing, , , –; desktop documentaries, –, n Devyatkin, Dimitri, , n diary film, ,  digital rendering, , , n dissent, , , , , , ; establishment press’s screening out of, , , ; “from dissent to resistance,” , –. See also police violence; Week of Angry Arts Dixon, Bill, n DJ Jamie xx,  Doane, Mary Ann,  documentaries, desktop, , n. See also Rush to Judgment (De Antonio) Doob, Nick, n Douglas, John. See Summer ’ (Newsreel)



Dunn, Judith, –, –n Dunn, Robert Ellis, –, –n Dylan, Bob,  Eames, Charles and Ray, Glimpses of the U.S.A., –, , n East Village Other, ,  educational television, –; Baldwin interview as model for, ; critiques of, , , –. See also Channel ; WGBH Emerson, Ruth, n Emshwiller, Ed, , , , n, n establishment press, , , , , , –, , , , ; encounters with underground press, –, –, , –, –, –, ; incomplete coverage, , , –; neutrality, ; screening out of voices of dissent, , , . See also network television; New York Times expanded cinema, –, , n; “Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema,” –, , , –nn–; Expanded Cinema, –; New Cinema Festival I, , n, –nn– experimental film, , –; Conner on, n; Gate Theater, n; Ono and, . See also report (Conner) experimental television, , , , ,  Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), , n, –n, n Farocki, Harun, Videogrammes of a Revolution, n Federal Communications Commission (FCC), , , ; regulations, violation of, , , , ,  feedback, , , ; “absolute feedback,”

n; Feedback: Television against Democracy, ; as “post-political solution,” , , , , ; Snows’s feedback system, , , , , , n; VanDerBeek and, , , , n; in Violence Sonata, , , , , , ; Wipe Cycle’s feedback system, – Festival of Expanded Cinema (New Cinema Festival I), , n, –nn– Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, n; “America Today,” –n; New Cinema Festival I, –nn–; Newsreel and, –, ,  Film Quarterly, –, ,  Fishman, Marvin, –, n; The Great Society, ; Head Game, ; Newsfront panel discussion, –, , , , ; No Game, –, ; Oē and, , –, n flashing lights, , , , , n Fluxus, , n Flynn, Sean, – Ford Foundation, , , , n, n found footage, , , , ; Conner and, , , , n; De Antonio and, , n; in Viet-Flakes, ; in Violence Sonata,  Fouser, Don, , n Fox News, – Fraser, Nancy, n, n Freedom Riders, ,  frequencies, , , , , , n; simultaneous broadcasts on multiple, , , . See also multichannel displays and works Fruchter, Norm, , , , n; Troublemakers, n. See also Summer ’ (Newsreel) Fuller, Buckminster, n; Dymaxion House, ; geodesic dome, , 

Gaines, Korryn, , n Galili, Doron, n Garner, Eric,  Gessner, Peter, , n; Time of the Locust, n Gillespie, Michael, –n Gillette, Frank, Wipe Cycle, –,  Ginsberg, Allen, , ,  Giovanni, Nikki,  Gitlin, Todd, –n; “Guerrillas Hit New York,” –, ,  Gleeson, Patrick, n Glimpses of the U.S.A. (Eames and Eames), –, , n Global Groove (Paik and Godfrey), – , , nn–, n, plate  Godfrey, John. See Global Groove (Paik and Godfrey) Golub, Leon,  Gould, Jack, , –, n Graves, Nancy,  Gray, Freddie,  Grizzard, Vernon,  Habermas, Jürgen, , n Hahne, Ron, n Halberstam, David,  Halprin, Anna, n, n, n Hamer, Fannie Lou, n Hamilton, Nancy,  happenings, , , , ; Black Gate Cologne, , , , –n, n; “Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition,” n; Schneemann and, , , n, n; Store Days, . See also Snows (Schneemann) Hartman, Saidiya,  Hay, Deborah,  Heitner, Devorah, –, –, –n Hendrix, Jimi, – Hernton, Calvin C., –, n Higgins, Dick, 



Hoffman, Abbie, ,  Holland, S. M., n home movies, , ; Zapruder footage, –, n. See also Castle Films Horne, Lena,  Howard Wise Gallery, , n, n

Jafa, Arthur, , , n James, David, –, –, n Janevski, Ana,  Jenkins, Bruce, n, n, n Johns, Jasper,  Johnson, Lyndon B., , ,  Johnston, Jill,  Jones, Clarence Benjamin,  Jones, Penn, Jr.,  Joselit, David,  Joseph, Kahlil. See blknws (Joseph) Judson Dance Theater, –; chance operations and Cage as influence on, , n, n; Chromelodeon, n; The Daily Wake (Newspaper Dance), , , n; Dunns’ workshops and, –, –n; Lateral Splay, n; Looseleaf, n; Newspaper Event, , n, n; Schneemann and, , , n. See also Snows (Schneemann) jump cuts, , , , ,  junk and scavenging: Conner and, – , ; De Antonio and, –, , n; Schneemann and, ; VanDerBeek and, , , 

press conferences, . See also Kennedy, John F., assassination Kennedy, John F., assassination: funeral as media event, , , , , , ; network television coverage, , , , , –, n, n. See also report (Conner); Rush to Judgment (De Antonio); television assassination (Conner) Kennedy, Robert F., ; assassination, , –, , ; Baldwin’s meeting with, –; civil rights movement, , ; Mississippi Delta tour, , n. See also Black TV (Tambellini) Kepes, György: at Center for Advanced Visual Studies, n; The Language of Vision, –, –n kinescopes, , ,  King, Martin Luther, Jr.: antiwar stance and Riverside Church speech, , –, , n, n; assassination, , , , , , ; The Negro and the American Promise, , , ; nonviolent protest with SCLC, ; Poor People’s Campaign, n; television as political tool, , ,  Kitt, Eartha, – Kluge, Alexander, n Klüver, Billy, , –n, n Kozloff, Max, n KQED, n Kramer, Robert, , –, , , , n Krauss, Rosalind, n Kubota, Shigeko, , n; Suite , , , plates – Ku Klux Klan, , 

Kaprow, Allan, , , ,  Katzman, Allan, ,  Kennedy, Jackie, ,  Kennedy, John F.: John F. Kennedy—Man and President, , ; myth, n;

Lane, Mark, , , , , n Leary, Timothy, –, n Lennon, John, , n Leonard, John,  Lewis, Randolph, , n

interference, ; signal, , n; “systems of interference,” ,  intermedia, , , n; “Intermedia ’,” n



Lichtman, Rene, n, n Life, , –, , n light shows, , – Lima, Lester,  live broadcasts, , , , , , ; kinescopes, , , ; of Oswald shooting, , , . See also Violence Sonata (VanDerBeek) Living Theater, , , n looped projections, , , , –, , ,  Lowe, Bob, n Loxton, David,  MacDonald, Scott,  Machover, Robert, ; Troublemakers, n Malanga, Gerard,  Malcolm X, , , ,  Mao Tse-tung, , n March on the Pentagon, , , –, , ,  Margolis, Melvin, n, n Marker, Chris, The Sixth Side of the Pentagon, – Martin, Trayvon,  McBee, Cecil, n McCarthy, Anna, n, n McCarthy, Joe, , n McLuhan, Marshall, , n, n;  “global village,” n; on Movie-Drome, ; “sense ratios,” n; Williams’s critique of, –n Mead, Robert, n media access: access to airwaves, , , , , , , , ; networks’ withholding access to broadcast footage, , , –, , , n. See also network television; public television media events, n; John F. Kennedy’s funeral, , , , , , ; Violence Sonata as,  media-mix, –, , 

media saturation, , , , ,  medium specificity, ,  Mekas, Adolfas,  Mekas, Jonas: “avant-garde newsreel,” , , , n; Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, n, n, –nn–; Free Time, ; “Movie Journal” and Newsreel, , –, n; New Cinema Festival I, n, n; “Report from Millbrook,” n Meredith, James, n Millner-Larsen, Nadja, , n Minow, Newton,  Mitchell, Tyrone, n Mitnick, Karen, n modernism, n; abstraction, , n; administration of senses, , , , , ; collage, ; medium specificity, ,  Moholy-Nagy, László,  Monroe, Marilyn,  Moorman, Charlotte, , , n Morea, Ben, n Morrison, Toni,  Movie-Drome (VanDerBeek), , – , , , , n, n; Fuller and, ; McLuhan on, ; retraining perception, ,  moving images, , , , , , ; industry, n; transmissions, history of, n multichannel displays and works, , , , , , , , ; The Black TV Project as, ; blknws as, ; Movie-Drome as, , ; Violence Sonata as, , ,  multiscreen displays, , , , , ,  Murrow, Edward R., n Nader, Ralph, n National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),  Index


National Educational Television (NET), –, , n; WGBH and, ; WNDT and, –,  NBC (network): expansion of nightly newscasts, ; John F. Kennedy’s assassination, , , , , n, n; Meet the Press, n; Oswald shooting, , , n; Warren Commission, , n, n Negt, Oskar, n network television: influence of, , , , , ; John F. Kennedy’s assassination, , , , , –, n, n; kinescopes, , , ; nightly news, , , , , , , ; as “vast wasteland,” , ; Vietnam War, , , –, –, n. See also ABC (network); CBS (network); NBC (network) Neville, Phoebe, n, n New Cinema Festival I (Festival of Expanded Cinema), , n, –nn– New Left, , n; Newsreel and, , , –n; Ramparts, , , n, n, plate  Newsfront, n, n; cancellation, ; Newsreel’s brief takeover of, – , , n newspaper: “beat” system, n; as conceptual model, ; Conner’s titles as headlines, n; The Daily Wake (Newspaper Dance), , , n; Newspaper Event, , n, n Newsreel, –, –; branches, , n; Draft Resistance, ; founding and mission, –, ; guerrilla screenings, , n; Mekas and, , , n, n; New Left and, , , –n; Newsfront takeover, –, , n; El pueblo se levanta, n; Rompiendo puertas, n; “Some 220


Ideas about Where the Newsreel Is after Two Months,” ; Third World orientation, n; Windflowers, . See also Columbia Revolt (Newsreel); No Game (Newsreel); Summer ’ (Newsreel) newsreels, , , ; “avant-garde newsreel,” , , , n; blknws as, , n; companies, , ; home-movie, , n; novelty, –, , –, , ; in Snows, , , –n; VanDerBeek and, , , , ; World War II–era, , . See also Newsreel news specials, ; Hunger in America, ; November nd and the Warren Report, , , , , n, n New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), , n New York Times, , , , , , n; Baldwin interview, review of, , ; Columbia University protests, , , n; “Dr. King’s Error,” ; “ Hippies Invade TV Show . . . ,” , –,  niche audiences, ,  Nichols, Bill, –, –n, n Nieland, Justus, –,  Nielsen ratings, , , n Nixon, Richard,  No Game (Newsreel), , –, –, , , n; nonsynch sound, n; The Sixth Side of the Pentagon compared with, –; Snows compared with, , –; soundtrack, , , , n November nd and the Warren Report, , , , , –, n; outtakes, , , , n, n Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria,  O’Connor, John J., , ,  Oē, Masanori, –, –, n; The Great Society, –; Head

Game, . See also No Game (Newsreel) Oldenburg, Claes,  Olsen, Charles, n on-demand streaming, , n Ono, Yoko, , ; Bag Piece, n; Bed-In for Peace, n; Film No.  (Bottoms), , n; Fly, ; Fly Piece, , n; Free Time, , , n, n; Sweep Piece, n; This Is Not Here, , n; Wrapping Piece, n Orlovsky, Peter,  Orta, Ramsey, – Oswald, Lee Harvey. See November  and the Warren Report; Rush to Judgment (De Antonio); television assassination (Conner) outer space, , , ,  outtakes, , , , , n, n overexposure, , , , ,  Paik, Nam June: Bye Bye Kipling, n; Cold War and, , n; Global Groove, –, , nn–, n, plate ; “Global Groove and Video Common Market,” –; Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, n; letter to O’Connor, –; Media Shuttle: Moscow/New York, ; New Cinema Festival I, ; satellite broadcasts, , n; The Selling of New York, –, , n; Suite , , , plates –; synthesizer, , , ; TV Bra for Living Sculpture, –; TV Lab, , –, , –, , nn–, n; WNET, , , , n, n; Wrap around the World, n Paley, William S., –, , –, n Pantaleo, Daniel,  Paterson, Basil,  Peck, Raoul, I Am Not Your Negro, n

Pepper, William F., “The Children of Vietnam,” , , n, plate  Perry, Sondra, n; chroma-key technology, , , , n; Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation, n; Historic Jamestowne, n; Lineage for a MultipleMonitor Workstation: Number One, n; Typhoon coming on, n. See also Resident Evil (Perry) Pettit, Tom,  Picard, Lil,  Piene, Otto, n; Black Gate Cologne, ; at Center for Advanced Visual Studies, n, n; Proliferation of the Sun, n Pirie, Alex, –n, n police violence, , , , , n; Democratic National Convention, Chicago, , , , ; Schneemann’s workshops for avoiding, n; struggles against, ,  press conferences, , , , n profanity, on-air, –, , –, ,  public affairs programming, ; Black, , –, n; Meet the Press, n; The Nader Report, n; Say Brother, –, –, nn– Public Broadcasting Act of ,  Public Broadcasting System (PBS),  public interest programming, , , , n public sphere: bourgeois/Habermasian, , n, n, n; televisual, , n public television, , , , –, n; advocates for, , , ; anxieties about, –; critiques of, , ; establishment of, , , , ; experimental programming, , , , ; guidelines and protocols, , , . See also WNET; WGBH Index


Raindance, , , ; becoming “media-ized,” –, , ; founding of, ; “post-political” media, ,  Rainer, Yvonne, , n, n, n Rancière, Jacques, n Rat, , ,  Rather, Dan, ,  Rauschenberg, Robert: De Antonio and, , n; Experiments in Art and Technology, , n, n; flatbed picture plane, ,  Ray, Danny,  Reasoner, Harry, ,  Reich, Wilhelm, n Reichenbach, François,  remediation, , , ; Conner and, , , –; slivercasting as, ; Tambellini and, , n remixing, , , , n report (Conner), –, –, , , , , , , , , , , ; Air Force One, –; caisson, , ; as  mm film, –, n; epilogue, –, , , , n; film leader, , , ; final version, , , ; flickering screen, , , , n; focus rings, , ; Ford Foundation grant, ; Love Field, , , n; networks’ refusal of footage for, –, –; novelty newsreel footage, –, –; rifle, , , , , , n; Rush to Judgment compared with, , , , n; SABRE system, , ; as  mm film, , n; soundtrack, , , , ; splice, –; stroboscopic sequence, , n; title, , n; visual puns, ; voice-overs,  Resident Evil (Perry), , , –, , n, plate ; blue screen, , , n; desktop editing, , , –; oceanic metaphor, ,



n; “racializing surveillance,” , , –n; video game, , , n Reynolds, Warren, n Richards, M. C., n Richardson, Ray, – riots, , , , , , , ; Harlem, ; Watts,  Rivera, Geraldo, , ,  Rizzi, Marcia, n Roberts, Steve, , , –, n Rockefeller Foundation, , ,  Rose, Kwame, ,  Rothlein, Arlene,  Ruby, Jack, , , , , – Ruby, Royce, n Rush to Judgment (De Antonio), , – , –, , , n, n; “art brut,” , ; BBC broadcast, , n; “Jack Ruby and the Dallas Police,” –; looped repetition, –; outtakes withheld by CBS, , –, –, n, n; report and television assassination compared with, –, –, –, –, n; “Witnesses May Never Testify,” , n Ryan, Paul,  Sales, William,  Sampson, Linda, n satellite hookups and broadcasts, , , , n; Douglas Davis and, , n; Paik and, , n scavenging. See junk and scavenging Schiller, Herbert,  Schneemann, Carolee: chance operations, –, , , ; Electronic Activation Room, n; Ghost Rev, , n, n; happenings, , , n, n; “Image as Process,” , –, , ; “interpenetrations and displacements,” n; Judson Dance

Theater, , , n; “kinetic theater,” –, , –, , , –, –, ; Labyrinths, n; Meat Joy, n; Newspaper Event, , n, n; as painter, n; Reich as influence, n; Water Light/Water Needle, , n; workshops for protesters, –, n. See also Snows (Schneemann) Schneider, Ira, Wipe Cycle, –,  Schramm, Wilbur,  Seale, Bobby,  Shamberg, Michael: Guerrilla Television, –, , , n; Raindance, , –, , , , ; TVTV,  Shannon, Claude, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” , n Sharpe, Christina, ; In the Wake,  Shero, Jeff, , –, –, n, –n; on-air profanity, –,  Siegel, Allan, –, , –, n Silva, Alan, n Silva, Michelle, n Silver, David, , n Simone, Nina,  single-channel works, ; Black TV as, ; Douglas Davis and, , n; Paik and, , ; VanDerBeek and, , , ,  Slade, Alzo,  slivercasting, ,  slow motion, , –, , n Smith, Jerome, ,  Snows (Schneemann), , –, , , , n, n; audiovisual noise, , , ; chance operations and, –, , ; diary film, , ; Experiments in Art and Technology, n, n; feedback system, , , , , , n; “kinetic theater,” , –; newsreels, ,

, –n; No Game compared with, , –; performers, n; photograph of Viet Cong soldier, – , n; Schneemann as painter and, n; Schneemann’s essay on, ; strobe lights, , , , , –; “systems of interference,” , ; title, , , ; Week of Angry Arts and, , , n. See also Viet-Flakes (Schneemann) Sontag, Susan, ; “Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition,” n Sony CV- recorder, , n soundtracks: Black Matters, , ; Black TV, , ; The Black TV Project, –; Black Video , n; No Game, , , , n; report, , , , ; television assassination, n; Viet-Flakes,  Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), , n Spero, Nancy,  Spielberg, Steven, Amistad,  split-screen projection, , –, , , ,  static, , , , , ,  Steinberg, Leo, , , n Stenberg, Amandla,  Stevens, May,  Stone, David, n Stoney, George, ,  Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), , n Suite  (Paik et al.), , , plates – Summer ’ (Newsreel), , , – , , , –, –, –, nn–; Columbia Revolt compared with, , n, n; JFK Airport press conference, , n; Newsreel’s decision not to distribute, n; voice-overs, , , , n Summers, Elaine, The Daily Wake, , , n



Sutton, Gloria, , , n, – n, n Sutton, Percy,  Suvero, Mark di,  synch sound, , , n Tambellini, Aldo: Black, n; Black , n; Black Film Series, , n, n; Black Gate Cologne, , , , –n, n; Black Gate Theater, , , , , n; Black Is, n; Black Matters, , –, , , n; blackness, , –, ; Blackout (film), n; Blackout (performance), n; Black Plus X, n; Black Trip, n; Black Trip , n; Black TV (), n; The Black TV Project, , –, , n, n; Black Video , , , , n; Black Zero, , n, n; Bolex camera, , ; at Center for Advanced Visual Studies, n, n; Communicationsphere, n; “Creative Electrography,” ; electromedia, , , , –, , , , , n; Retracing Black, n; Sony CV-, , n. See also Black TV (Tambellini) Tambellini, Elsa, n, n technology: artists and, –n; chroma-key, , , , , n; cutting-edge, , ; and politics, , ; “sense ratios,” n; “systems of interference,” , ; techno-utopianism, , n; video, availability of, , , , , n television: administration of senses, ; “ambient,” , , n; consolidation and shoring up of authority, , , –, , , , n; “How to Look at Television,” –; as mediator of events and crises, , , –, , , , , , ; as political tool, 224


, ; as site of contestation, , , , , ; Television: Technology and Cultural Form, –, , –n, n; televisual public sphere, , n; Uricchio’s periodization of, –, n. See also artists’ television; educational television; experimental television; media access; network television; public television; television monitors/ screens television assassination (Conner), , , , , –, , , –, n, n, plate ;  mm version, n; gallery-based projection, , , , , , ; looped footage and projection, , ; media event, , ; premiere, , n; roll bar, , ;  mm version, n; slow-motion projection/replays, –, , n; title, ; videographic distortion,  television monitors/screens: “ambient television,” , , n; displays of, , , , , , n; filming, , , , , , , , , ,  Tenney, James: Bell Labs, , n, n; Fluxfilm Anthology, n; Nine Evenings, n; Snows, n, n; Viet-Flakes,  Time, – Tippit, J. D., , n Touré, Askia M.,  Truman, Harry M.,  Tuchman, Maurice, n Tudor, David, n TV Lab, , , n; artists-inresidence, , , , n; Artist Television Workshop and name change, , –n; Global Groove, –, , nn–, n, plate ; “Global Groove and Video Common Market,” –;

Present Tense, , , ; The Television Show, –, , , n TVTV, , n Ujică, Andrei, Videogrammes of a Revolution, n underground films, , , , , n, n underground press, , , ; East Village Other, , ; encounters with the establishment press, –, – , , –, –, –, ; Rat, , ,  Uricchio, William, –, n USCO, , n, n user-produced content, ,  VanDerBeek, Stan: Black Mountain College, , , ; Cage as influence on, , n; CBS employment, , nn–, n; CBS residency, –, , n; at Center for Advanced Visual Studies, n, n; “The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground,” ; Cold War and, –, –, n; collage, , , , , , , , ; “Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema,” –, –, –n; feedback, , , , n; Feedback No. , ; “information concerts,” , , , , ; “junk” images, , , ; Move-Movies: A Choreography for Projectors, ; Panels for the Walls of the World (mural), n; Panels for the Walls of the World (video), –, , –; “post-political solutions,” , , , . See also Movie-Drome (VanDerBeek); Violence Sonata (VanDerBeek) Van Dyke, Willard,  Vasulka, Steina, n Vasulka, Woody, n

video: collage, , , ; collectives, , , , ; game, , , n; “Global Groove and Video Common Market,” –; single-channel, , , , n; Sony CV-, , n; synthesizers, , , ; technology, access to/availability of, , , , , n; videographic distortion, , , ; videographic layering, , ; “Video Obscura,” ; “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” n Viet-Flakes (Schneemann), , –, , n, plates ; photographs, , , –, , n, n, plates ; title,  Vietnam War: mass protests, , , , –, , , ; network television coverage, , , –, –, n. See also antiwar movement; No Game (Newsreel); Snows (Schneemann); Viet-Flakes (Schneemann); Week of Angry Arts Village Voice, , , n, n Violence Sonata (VanDerBeek), –, –, –, –, , , ; “anti-TV,” , ; collage, , , ; feedback, , , , , , ; “information concert,” , , , ; “Man,” ; “Man/ Man,” , , ; “Man/Woman,” , –, –nn–, n; as media event, ; reviews, , –; “sense ratios,” n; title, n; WGBH and, , , –, , , n, n voice-overs: in Global Groove, ; in No Game, n; in report, ; in Summer ’, , , , n Wade, Henry, ,  Walker, Shawn, n Wallace, George, ,  Walley, Jonathan,  Index


Warhol, Andy, n, n Waring, James, n, n War on Poverty, , , , n Warren Commission. See November  and the Warren Report; Rush to Judgment (De Antonio) Watts, Peter, n WDR-TV,  Weaver, Warren, n Week of Angry Arts, , , –, , –n, n; “An Act of Respect for the Vietnamese People,” –; “The Children of Vietnam,” , , n, n, plate ; Convalescent Dance, n. See also Snows (Schneemann) Weiner, Norbert,  Welch, Joseph,  West, Andrew,  West, Cornel,  WGBH, , , n; James Brown concert, , –, , ; Fouser as producer at, n; The Medium Is the Medium, , , n; The Nader Report, n; The Negro and the American Promise, , – , –; The Radical Americans, n; Say Brother, –, – , nn–; What’s Happening Mr. Silver, n. See also Violence Sonata (VanDerBeek) White, Joan, –n Williams, Raymond, Television: Tech-



nology and Cultural Form, –, , –n, n Williams, Serena,  Wipe Cycle (Gillette and Schneider), –,  wipes, ,  Wiseman, Frederick, n WNDT, , –, ; merger with NET, , . See also Newsfront; WNET WNET, , , ; Bye Bye Kipling, n; Douglas Davis and, , , , ; Drop In and Sound Off, ; Free Time, –, , , , n, n; Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, n; Paik and, , , , n, n; Present Tense, , , , plate ; Speak Out, ; st State, n; VTR: Video and Television Review, n. See also TV Lab World War II, , , n, n; newsreels, , , n WTOP, ,  Yalkut, Jud, ; Douglas Davis interview with, –, ; Suite , , , plates – Youngblood, Gene, Expanded Cinema, – YouTube, , , ,  Zapruder, Abraham, –, n