Keynote Paper by Deirdre Boyle (New School for Public Engagement)

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Conference A Switched-on TV: The arts in the black and white of the cathode ray tube (March 25 to 28, 2015)

Deirdre Boyle (New School for Public Engagement)
Thursday March 26, 2015 - Cinémathèque québécoise

Title of the paper: VT is Not TV Forty Years Later

Abstract: VT is Not TV was one of the best known slogans of early video: Was it a Manifesto or a Magritte-like riddle? Proclaimed in the pages of Radical Software, this clarion call to reject television in favour of the power of video was understandable at the time. Liberated from the control of a handful of monolithic corporations, video freex armed with a black-and-white portapak saw it as a powerful means for exploring the art and politics of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Some rejected television outright, others aimed to reinvent it, while still others ignored it in favor of art-world acceptance. This debate over portable video’s relationship to television lasted roughly a decade. It absorbed artists and activists who were also caught up in a constant struggle for funding, access to state-of-the-art production and editing equipment and facilities, and ways to distribute their work to audiences. I will look back at the choices made by some leading video artists and activists of the time—excerpts may come from the following: Raindance Corporation (Ira Schneider, Frank Gillette, Paul Ryan, Michael Shamberg, Beryl Korot), TVTV, the Videofreex, NFBC’s Challenge for Change, William Wegman, Nam June Paik, Mary Lucier, among others. I hope to explore in hindsight the lingering impact competing video artists and activists had on television and television's impact on video art. How this may relate to new media today with its own radical politics will be considered.

Bio: Deirdre Boyle is Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York City. She is the author of essays and reviews of independent film and video for such journals as Afterimage, Cineaste, Frameworks, Millennium Film Journal, Short Film Studies, Wide Angle, WuXia, among others—and the author of books such as Video Classics: A Guide to Video Art and Documentary Tapes and Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited. She is currently writing about the work of Cambodian filmmaker and genocide survivor Rithy Panh. Boyle is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Asian Cultural Council Fellowships, and was awarded the New School University’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She is an award-winning curator of film and video programs for museums, galleries, libraries, universities, and public and cable television channels around the world. For nearly forty years she has taught courses in media criticism, documentary history and contemporary practice, death and media, and history, memory, and media. Throughout her professional life she has examined how we negotiate change—from the demise of radical video collectives in the ‘70s to the end of the Soviet empire in the ‘90s to the handover of colonial Hong Kong to China to the switch from an analog past to a digital future.

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