| A Brief
History of RainDance
by Davidson Gigliotti
Early Days 1968-69
Frank Gillette, an artist and radical media activist,
conceived the Raindance Corporation in New York during
the summer of 1969. It was Gillette's intention to found
an alternative media think tank; a source of ideas,
publications, videotapes and energy providing a theoretical
basis for implementing communication tools in the project
of social change.
To make his point, Gillette chose the name Raindance
as an ironic reference to the Rand Corporation, then
and now an establishment think tank advising government
Gillette's concept grew out of a matrix of ideas, events,
and relationships that had developed over the previous
years. One important passage was his friendship with
Alan Krebs' and his association with Kreb's Free University
on East 14th Street in New York, where he taught a seminar
in McLuhan during the winter of 1967-68.
The McLuhan seminar led Gillette to a meeting with
Paul Ryan, who was working with Marshall McLuhan as
a research fellow at Fordham during McLuhan's Albert
Schweitzer Professorship year. The two became friends
and, in the spring of 1968, Ryan, who himself had been
working with videotape, loaned Gillette two Sony portapaks
with cameras, two small studio cameras, two playback
decks, and two monitors that had been donated to the
Gillette took it all back to his loft on Avenue A and
6th St, and began a summer of video experimentation,
which included street recording, developing installation-type
set-ups in his loft, and pondering the implications
of this new type of image-making.
Gillette was not the only person experimenting with
video in New York at that time. During his taping sessions
in front of Gem's Spa on the corner of St. Mark's Place
and 2nd Avenue, he came to the attention, on separate
occasions, of Howard Gutstadt and Victor Gioscia.
Gutstadt, an artist, introduced Gillette to David Cort
and Ken Marsh, also artists, who were working with a
camera and one-inch video deck in Brooklyn during the
1968 citywide teacher's strike. Cort, Marsh, Gutstadt,
Gillette and his friend, Harvey Simons, formed a loose
discussion group that they called Commediation, meeting
occasionally over the fall of 1968. Eric Siegal, Les
Levine, and Nam June Paik also sat with them from time
Victor Gioscia, a philosopher, Adelphi professor and
Director of Research for Jewish Family Services, was
himself using video both in connection with his work
as a family therapist, and as teacher at Adelphi, where
he taught the work of McLuhan and Bateson and conducted
a portapak lab. Gioscia, too, was deeply interested
in the implications of video for social change, and
he and Gillette shared a lively interest in Marshall
McLuhan, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCullough, and other
In December, 1968, Gillette was introduced to Ira Schneider.
Schneider came from a background of hard science - experimental
psychology and neurophysiology at the University of
Wisconsin - but had turned to filmmaking, winning awards
for his short films.
In January of 1969, David Brooks, a filmmaker &
teacher, invited Schneider to Antioch College in Yellow
Springs, Ohio, to do a workshop. Schneider invited Gillette
to go along - the beginning of an important collaboration
The following Spring Gillette and Schneider were invited
to participate in TV as a Creative Medium, a group show
focusing on those artists in New York who were working
with video in 1969, curated by Howard Wise at his gallery
on 57th Street. Gillette and Schneider proposed an interactive,
multi-channel video piece called Wipe Cycle,
the idea for which had grown out of Gillette's experience
with the equipment he had worked with over the previous
summer, and Schneider's concern with viewer interaction
and delayed feedback. Wise agreed to fund the project
Wipe Cycle was a complex piece, requiring special
circuitry to realize. It was not beyond Gillette's ability
to imagine, but it was Schneider who understood how
it could be built. The successful completion and exhibition
of this very early video installation further enhanced
the friendship and respect between the two men.
Through a mutual friend, Gillette met Michael Shamberg,
a young reporter for Time Magazine. Shamberg had read
McLuhan, was impressed by Gillette's conceptualization
of video's importance as the right tool for change at
that critical time, and was also impressed with the
medium's obvious potential for innovative journalism.
Shamberg pitched a story idea about Wise's gallery show
- and Wipe Cycle - to his editor at Time, and
got the assignment to write it. Shamberg and Gillette
hit it off and, before long, Shamberg was thinking about
quitting his job and joining Gillette in a new enterprise.
But before Raindance could emerge, one more element
had to come into place. Through a fortuitous connection
stemming from Schneider's Antioch workshop the previous
winter, Gillette was introduced to Louis Jaffe, a young
musician from Virginia. Jaffe had dropped out of Antioch,
worked summers as a news photographer, traveled across
the country, and arrived in New York looking for a project.
He had family money to invest, but he wanted to invest
it in something personally meaningful.
He came from a media family - his father had been an
important newspaperman in Virginia- so a media project
felt right to him. He liked Gillette and Shamberg and
agreed to help fund Raindance. Over the first year and
a half, Jaffe would fund Raindance in the amount of
Gillette, Shamberg, Jaffe, and Gillette's friend Marco
Vassi, registered Raindance as a Delaware corporation
in October of 1969.
The circle of people revolving around Raindance at
the beginning included Paul Ryan, Vic Gioscia, Megan
Williams and Harvey Simonds in addition to the Raindance
founders. Not all were members in the strict sense of
the word, but all were interested in the potential for
cultural change of half-inch video and formed an affinity
group around Gillette's think tank idea. Also involved
in Raindance's day to day activities was Jody Sibert,
originally employed as office help, but gradually attaining
full membership in Raindance.
The Founding Members
Frank Gillette, Raindance's first president, had, in
the parlance of the day, the "best rap." He could talk
convincingly about video, media, the future, and Raindance's
place in it. Conversant with several areas of related
knowledge, and much influenced by the thought of Gregory
Bateson, Gillette was an articulate, even silver-tongued,
presenter. A brilliant idea man, he was, however, no
administrator. He showed up at the Raindance offices
only sporadically, preferring to work at home.
Michael Shamberg was a professional writer with journalistic
experience. He had a good understanding of administration,
and the world of big media. He gradually assumed more
and more of the administrative duties of Raindance,
and, in time, at Louis Jaffe's request, Gillette willingly
stepped down from the leadership in Shamberg's favor.
Louis Jaffe had a complement of media skills, and the
resources, energy, and vision to support Raindance in
its first year and become involved in its daily activities.
He functioned as Radical Software's circulation
manager in its early days.
Marco Vassi was Gillette's friend, on hand because Gillette
didn't know Shamberg and Jaffe that well, and wanted
a friend in Raindance that he could count on. Vassi
was a writer and an articulate advocate of sexual freedom.
Ira Schneider and Beryl Korot
Schneider and Gillette had drawn apart after their
collaboration on Wipe Cycle and on a subsequent
abortive project designing a video display for the American
Can Company, a project in which Woody Vasulka, a well-known
video artist today, was also involved.
That summer, Schneider decided to join with John Reilly
in a partnership called Televisionaries, and produced
several videotapes with him.
Beryl Korot, recently graduated from college, worked
for Barbara Epstein at the New York Review of Books.
Previous to that she had worked for Nanine Bilski, first
at the NYU School of the Arts, and then at Cybern Education,
a public art consulting firm. She and Schneider had
known each other at the University of Wisconsin, and
had reacquainted back in hometown New York. Korot had
real-world magazine experience and she and Schneider
had often talked about a periodical to serve the incipient
video community. During the fall of 1969, Korot met
Gershuny had just returned to New York after a long
stay in Europe, where she had been introduced to video
by John Hopkins, a British journalist and photographer.
She, too, had thought about starting a newsletter for
the developing video community, and had already some
ideas as to format. After some initial meetings, Gershuny
and Korot decided to work together to produce a publication.
Beryl Korot, 1970
24E22nd st, 2003
Gershuny knew a bit about filmmaking, had worked with
the Living Theater in Europe, and had a good sense of
what video could become, although she made no tapes
herself. Without any prospect of support except encouragement
from Schneider, the two women started to work on The
Video Newsletter, their working title for what finally
would become Radical Software.
Meanwhile, Schneider was becoming dissatisfied with
his situation. Over the fall of 1969, Televisionaries
had evolved, with the arrival of Rudy Stern, into Global
Village. It had become a video theater, with an exhibition
schedule, ads in the Village Voice, and an emphasis
on paying audiences. It wasn't long before priorities
clashed. When Schneider found that he could not play
his newly shot Rolling Stones Altamont Music Festival
tapes there, he left Global Village in December of 1969
and joined Raindance shortly afterwards, bringing with
him good video productions skills and, through his association
with Korot and Gershuny, the possibility of a video
Shortly after Schneider joined Raindance, the Raindance
principals leased a loft at 24 East 22nd Street. Shamberg
quit his job at Time Magazine soon after.
The Center for Decentralized Television
Raindance's pressing need was for a project that would
establish the group both financially and professionally.
The newsletter was months away, and Jaffe's financial
aid, generous though it was, was rapidly being spent.
Paul Ryan had a consultancy with the New York State
Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and he informed Raindance
of a major budget increase in that organization, and
the introduction, through NYSCA's Film Department, of
a large allocation for new media.
In the early spring of 1970, while Korot and Gershuny
were working on their newsletter, Shamberg and Schneider
proposed, through the Jewish Museum, to have Raindance
serve as a regranting agency for part of the newly committed
allocation. They named their program The Center for
Decentralized Television, a humorous title, and drew
up a plan to administer and regrant $250K to independent
videomakers, on the premise that they knew the field
well and could distribute grants fairly. Editing and
distribution facilities were also posited as part of
a complete program that would put Raindance in the central
position of New York's young alternate video community.
NYSCA, uncertain of its own understanding of this new
media landscape and the characters who inhabited it,
tentatively agreed to award Raindance $250,000 to assume
the re-granting role.
This brought Raindance to the immediate attention of
Schneider's old partners Reilly and Stern at Global
Village, but also the Videofreex, a video collective
started by David Cort and Parry Teasdale, and People's
Video Theater, organized by Ken Marsh, Howard Gutstadt,
and Elliot Glass. Raindance's plan met with vigorous
opposition, mainly on the part of Global Village. Reilly
and Stern skillfully drummed up a groundswell of criticism,
in the face of which NYSCA rescinded their offer. It
was a defeat, more than a defeat - a disaster that poisoned
the atmosphere in New York's nascent independent video
community for months, years in some cases, afterward.
It would probably have spelled the end of Raindance
if it hadn't been for Radical Software.
In June of 1970, Beryl Korot and Phyllis Gershuny sent
the first issue of Radical Software to the printer.
It was printed in quarter-fold format in blue ink, with
a computer-derived image on the cover. The order was
for 2000 copies. On the masthead Michael Shamberg was
listed as Publisher, Ira Schneider as co-Originator,
and Korot and Gershuny as Editors. The Raindance Corporation
was also listed as publisher.
There was an editorial, written by Korot, Gershuny,
and Shamberg, noting the relationship between power
and control of information, and the importance of freeing
television from corporate control. It also included
a balanced assessment of technology as a cultural force,
and recommended an ecological approach to understanding
it. The Raindancers used the term ecology in its original
scientific sense, the study of systems within their
environments. This applied to all systems, cultural,
informational, and political, as well as referring
to natural systems as the term is usually understood
today. "We need to get good tools into good hands -
not to reject all tools because they have been misused
to benefit only the few," Shamberg wrote.
To demonstrate their commitment to free information,
they rejected the standard copyright mark in favor of
a new one, a circle with an X inside it, meaning, "please
Issue one of Radical Software contained an article
by Gillette on media ecology and another on the evils
of EVR (a proprietary playback system developed by CBS);
by Paul Ryan on the communication possibilities of cable
TV; by Gene Youngblood on "The Videosphere." Nam June
Paik weighed in with "Expanded Education for the Paperless
Society," two pages of observations, quotes and news
clips. Thea Sklover wrote a report on the state of cable
television in America, and Robert Kragen wrote on "Art
and TV." There were contributions from Shamberg, Vassi,
Aldo Tambellini, Jud Yalkut, Alex Gross, Richard Kahlenberg,
and others. Also of note was a description by Bonnie
Kline and Dorothy Henaut, both from the Canadian program
Challenge for Change, of their experiences bringing
portapak media access to local community groups in Montreal.
Also included was an interview by the Raindance Corporation
with R.Buckminster Fuller, transcribed from a Raindance
videotape, on broad subjects of Earth Day, the evolution
of civilization, some reminiscences on his youth, aspects
of the space program, and the meaning of ecology.
The "FEEDBACK" section on the last pages offered contributions
from 32 groups and individuals all of who were involved
with portapak video to one degree or another.
It was an impressive first issue. Most were given away,
about 700 were sold for $1 each. Costs for printing
and mailing came to about $2,000. Korot and Schneider
drove across country and distributed the issue to bookstores.
In September of 1970, additional copies of the same
issue were printed, and work began on the second issue.
Radical Software number 2 had the same format
as number 1. This time the emphasis was on technology.
There was a laser and holography article by Lloyd Cross,
and articles by Parry Teasdale, Eric Siegal, Andrea
Brown and Charles Bensinger. There were two by Paul
Ryan, and one, entitled Frequency and Form, by Vic Gioscia.
But the first five pages were about cable TV and the
electromagnetic spectrum, containing charts, text, and
interviews, compiled and written by Beryl Korot. It
was an exhaustive survey, providing a wealth of data
for public access activists.
Instead of an editorial, there was a discussion of
the financial picture engendered by issue number 1,
clearly indicating a loss.
During this period, 1970-71, The New York State Council
on the Arts positioned itself as the major support system
for alternative video in New York, and had opened a
new department, TV/Media. But to qualify for a direct
grant from NYSCA, it was necessary to be a tax-exempt
cultural institution, a 501(c)3 (1).
Grants could be obtained by non-qualifying groups only through 'umbrella'
organizations, qualified non-profit institutions which
were willing to assume the necessary fiscal accountability.
For their thwarted Center for Decentralized Television
project, the Raindance Corporation had applied through
the Jewish Museum in New York. Although they did not
get the grant expected, they did get $35,000, which,
when finally received in the spring of 1971, went some
way toward easing Raindance's growing financial burden.
Raindance finally became a 501(c)3 itself in June, 1971,
changing its name to the Raindance Foundation.
By the time of the third issue, Spring, 1971, the Raindance
forces began to realize that putting out a magazine
on schedule was labour-intensive activity, taking time
away from more amenable projects like making videotapes
and developing a viable tape distribution system. Radical
Software, important though it obviously was, was
a cost center, and Raindance had no sources of income
except money initially donated by Jaffe (which had been
largely spent), whatever they could attain from NYSCA,
and whatever they could raise from doing consultancies.
This time the editorial strongly hinted that Radical
Software might be discontinued after a few more
Issue number 3 also saw Gershuny replaced as co-editor
by Michael Shamberg, and reduced to Associate Editor
on the masthead. Gershuny's contributions to the initial
founding energy of Radical Software were many,
involving conceptualization, design, and content. Never
invited to join Raindance, however, Gershuny left Radical
Software after the third issue.
(1) Note : 501(c)3 is a status
designation for non profit organization under the National
Revenue Act of the United States of America.
Dean and Dudley Evenson
Fortunately, over the winter of 1970-71, some fresh
energy arrived at Raindance in Dean and Dudley Evenson
from New York's Lower East Side, the spawning ground
of many early New York video people. Dean, like Ira
Schneider, came from a hard science background; in his
case, molecular biology. He was also an accomplished
musician, a flautist, who had worked in New York's sound
studios as a recording engineer. He had a professional
understanding of the ins and outs of audio and video
signals. Dudley was a professional photographer. They
had attended, with portapak, the Alternate Media
Conference at Goddard in the spring of 1970, meeting
members of New York's video community there. Good workers,
they found a home with Raindance, which, with a periodical
to produce and other projects under way, needed their
skills and energy.
Issue number 4 of Radical Software, Summer,
1971, edited by Korot and Megan Williams, was the most
ambitious yet, 79 pages and a two-color cover designed
by the Ant Farm. It was Raindance's first experiment
with "farming out" parts of an issue, and the result
was a rich, and dense, compilation of material - proposals,
essays, and reports - from Canadian and California-based
video and alternate media groups.
By now the price for a single issue of Radical Software
was at $3.00 per copy, and press runs were at 10,000.
Transparent to a fault, the Raindancers included a section
near the masthead where all the financials of the current
issue and the previous issue were detailed. Profit remained
illusive. The Raindancers were fronting the bulk of
printing and distribution costs themselves, and had
never yet come close to covering them. Many copies were
still given away, and few were sold at the cover price.
During the late winter of 1971, Shamberg went to Nassau
in the Bahamas and wrote a book. As a result of his
experiences publishing Radical Software and,
most particularly, his association with Gillette, Paul
Ryan, Schneider, Korot and others in the Raindance affinity
group, Shamberg decided to attempt to put the message
of Radical Software into book form. It would,
he thought, bring Raindance, and Radical Software,
to a wider audience, and offer a more permanent repository
for the Raindance idea than the disposable issues of
the magazine. At the same time, it might bring in some
much needed revenue. A history of successful alternative
publishing was taking shape, sparked by Stewart Brand's
Whole Earth Catalog.
Distilling the 'raps' of Gillette and others, and writings
of Paul Ryan about the aggressive use of video in the
social ferment of the early 70s, Shamberg retailed them
in popular book form. Guerrilla Television, published
by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, appeared in the bookstores
in November, 1971.
Guerrilla Television outlined an alternate media
philosophy and practicum, an instructional text with
essays, illustrations, and practical advice written
in language appropriate to young activists. Although
the exact distribution figures are not known, it may
have sold 25,000 copies, perhaps more.
Designed by Ant Farm, a west coast video and design
group that Shamberg had contact with through his college
friend, Allen Rucker, Guerrilla Television was
divided into two sections: 'Meta Manual', which consisted
of a distillation of the ideas of his associates transmogrified
by Shamberg, and 'Manual', which contained more practical
information. Executed with wit and a lively graphic
style, it was a Radical Software in book form
and was meant to be so. It was designated Vol. I, Number
6 of Radical Software, although it appeared on
the street before Number 5.
At the beginning was a photo of a dead rhinoceros and
a wrecked car. On the opposite page was a photo of an
ape climbing a TV antenna. These images typified the
Raindance philosophy; that you could not change the
world order by attacking it head-on without annihilating
yourself in the process, but that with a more patient,
determined, and conscious approach, you could have an
impact upon it.
It did not make a lot of money, but it did bring Raindance
national notice, and coupled it with an identifying
concept - 'guerrilla television'. The term became the
byword for a colorful style of aggressive video activism.
Changes in both Radical Software and Raindance
were reflected in issue number 5, Spring, 1972. For
some time there had been the growing feeling, reflected
in Radical Software editorials, that editing,
producing and distributing the periodical took too much
time away from what they saw as their main interest
- making videotapes. 'Farming out" issues to other video
groups was one time and labour-saving tactic. Finding
a publisher to handle production and distribution duties
was another. Schneider found an interested publisher
in Gordon and Breach, science publishers who had also
published books by Frank Gillette and Paul Ryan. Raindance
agreed to provide the camera-ready editorial content,
and Gordon and Breach would print and distribute the
result. Issue number 5 was the first one so produced.
It featured a 9" x 12" magazine format, and was priced
at $1.95. It contained 53 entries and articles, spread
out over 124 pages.
Personnel changes were also afoot. The Raindance staff,
as listed in issue #5, consisted of Dean Evenson, Dudley
Evenson, Beryl Korot, Ira Schneider, Michael Shamberg,
Jodie Sibert, and Megan Williams. Gone were Louis Jaffe
and Frank Gillette. Paul Ryan, an important member of
the Raindance affinity group, had moved to the country
to write and make tapes; Marco Vassi had moved to Woodstock
and was writing erotic novels - with some success. Soon
others would follow. It was rapidly becoming apparent
that Raindance alone could never entirely support its
members or, in some cases, their ambitions.
Top Value Television (TVTV)
Michael Shamberg, for example, along with his friend
Allen Rucker, had long thought that portapak video was
an ideal medium for a type of subversive journalism
they envisioned. But Raindance, committed now to publishing
Radical Software and to weekly screenings of
videotapes by various New York videomakers, could not
be the vehicle for that idea. The productions that Shamberg
and Rucker envisioned required more people, more portapaks,
better editing systems, and deeper financial support
than Raindance could ever provide.
Early in 1972 Shamberg conceived Top Value Television
or TVTV, a consortium that would combine the work of
several video groups - Videofreex, Ant Farm, and some
Raindancers, and others - in large-scale production
efforts. It paid off. TVTV's coverage of the 1972 Democratic
and Republican conventions had some national impact,
and the production team went on to do several projects
under Shamberg's and Rucker's leadership. Shamberg's
effort's took him and Megan Williams to San Francisco
and away from Raindance, but ultimately led him to a
Hollywood career in film production.
The Cost of Survival
On a purely financial level, Raindance could not survive
as originally configured. Salaries never approached
a living wage for New York City, even in 1972. In-kind
payments were not unusual. Dean and Dudley Evenson,
for example, lived in back of the Raindance loft. The
rest got small salaries, maybe $45 a week, and eked
out what living they could or lived off savings.
New York City, then as now, was an expensive venue.
Some video groups, like the Videofreex, paid small salaries,
$25 per week, and made ends meet by living together.
But even this strategy failed, and in 1971, the Videofreex
left town for a farmhouse in the Catskills. Country
living in the Catskill counties had many attractions;
a population of like-minded friends, the nearby center
of Woodstock and an inexpensive and unpressured lifestyle.
One other important advantage to having one's headquarters
in the country stemmed from the way NYSCA distributed
money. By 1971, nearly every embryo video group in the
state of New York had applied to the New York State
Council on the Arts for money with a reasonable expectation
of getting some. NYSCA had undergone a major budget
increase, going from 2.5 million in 1969-70 to 20 million
the following year. This change, and the further budget
increases that followed, had the effect of democratizing
the arts in New York to an unprecedented degree. Its
impact on the young video community was immense.
NYSCA's enabling legislation mandated that NYSCA grant
money be distributed by county on a per capita basis
ensuring, theoretically at least, each individual receive
so many cents worth of cultural benefit. This made New
York City a hotspot. With a large population it could
expect to receive a large share of NYSCA money, but
it also generated a very large number of applications;
competition was fierce, and some of the applicants were
the huge NYC cultural institutions like the Metropolitan
Museum and the Bronx Zoo. Video applications proliferated.
Dance companies, performance groups, arts organizations
of all kinds, developed video programs and applied to
NYSCA for grants.
By moving to an upstate county, with few or no arts
organizations applying for funds, one's application
might have a better chance of serious consideration.
Dean and Dudley Evenson had experimented with country
living during the summer of 1971, enjoyed it, and decided
to change from a city life to a country life with a
different group of video friends in Downsville, New
York, Delaware County. And, in the Spring of 1972, Schneider
and Korot, now the permanent Editors-in- Chief of Radical
Software and, effectively, the remaining members
of Raindance, bought a small house in Ruby, New York,
a rural hamlet in Ulster county. There they made videotapes
and developed personal projects in addition to continuing
with the publication of Volume II of Radical Software.
Schneider and Korot divided their time between Ruby,
New York, and a New York City apartment.
Volume II would consist of 6 more issues of Radical
Software, four of them farmed out; one to a group
of video artists from Los Angeles, another to a video
group from San Francisco, another to a group connected
with Antioch College.
The Last Radical Software
The last issue of Radical Software, produced
by the Center for Understanding Media at the New School
in New York, appeared in Spring of 1974. Disagreements
between Gordon and Breach and Raindance over the annual
number of issues and the quality of print production
finally brought Radical Software to an end. Schneider
and Korot wanted to publish six issues a year, feeling
that it was the only way that technical information,
which formed a part of Radical Software's content,
could be kept current. The publishers wanted to publish
semi-annually. The editors also felt that print and
paper quality and photographic reproduction was not
up to journal standards. Schneider and Korot and their
publisher agreed to dissolve their relationship, and
Radical Software was discontinued.
The name most consistently associated with the leadership
of Radical Software was that of Beryl Korot.
She was a founder, and was on the masthead as co-Editor
or co-Editor-in-Chief of every issue but one - Volume
I, Number 5 - which was edited by Shamberg and Dudley
Evenson, and on which Korot served as Associate Editor.
Raindance continued as an umbrella for artists who
had been associated with it, such as Schneider and Korot,
Frank Gillette, and later, Juan Downey.
Video Art: An Anthology
After Radical Software, there was a hiatus on
publications until 1975, when Schneider and Korot wrote
proposals for a set of two books, Video Art: An Anthology
and Video Documentary. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich
accepted their proposal, but only one book, Video Art,
Video Art: An Anthology, was the last publication
to bear the Raindance imprimatur. It sold 11,000 copies
in hardcover and paperback. A survey of practicing video
artists was done, and seventy video artists were each
given two pages to present information about their work.
In addition, there were essays by Wulf Herzogenrath,
Douglas Davis, John Hanhardt, David Ross, Willoughby
Sharp, Peter Frank, David Antin, Frank Gillette, Davidson
Gigliotti, among others.
Video Art: An Anthology seems a long jump from Raindance's
earlier publications. Certainly neither Guerrilla
Television nor Radical Software were particularly
preoccupied with video art, per se, at least not as
it is usually understood. That is, until we remember
that Gillette and Schneider, who were instrumental in
both Raindance and Radical Software's existence,
came first to the attention of the video community as
the creators of Wipe Cycle, one of video art
history's seminal artworks.
And that today, with Beryl Korot, an actual founder
of Radical Software, they are mostly known for
their subsequent careers as video artists. It calls
for some rethinking about video art and its origins.
Rethinking Video Art after Raindance
It is helpful to remember that video art, one version
at least, was born subversive. It was a product of people
whose goal it was to challenge America's then static
information order by throwing television back in its
face, using a new medium, small format videotape, which
seemed ideally suited to the job. Though few were MFAs,
many, not just the Raindancers, were educated in the
arts and were at home in the realm of art and ideas
about art. But most were clear that art itself was not
the whole point.
They thought that interpreting video simply as another
medium like painting or sculpture diminished its potential.
Putting video in an art context was all very well. But
it was understood that if that meant limiting it to
a gallery and museum audience, as painting and sculpture
then were, a large part of video's power would be lost.
"Don't bury us in the museums," David Cort, founder
of the Videofreex, would say, "that will finish us off
David Cort, 1970
Raindance remained active as an umbrella for artists
applying to various funding agencies, and as the sponsor
of Night Light TV, a New York cable program curated
by Ira Schneider with Russ Johnson, featuring classics
of video art. Raindance came to a close when Schneider,
after receiving a Fulbright fellowship, moved to Berlin,
Germany in 1993.
Raindance positioned itself as a video collective,
but the group always retained elements of Gillette's
powerful think tank idea, even after Gillette himself
had largely withdrawn.
The members themselves, and their associates, had been
teachers, journalists, artists, writers, scientists,
and filmmakers, and were well read in the culture of
the 60s. Like many, they felt a strong mission to help
challenge and change the information order of the day,
then dominated by network TV and corporate press.
But Raindance members wanted to have a wider impact
in the media community than simple independent video
making could offer at that time. Publications were one
important route to influence. Raindance produced two
significant books, Guerrilla Television and Video
Art: An Anthology which will always be an important
part of independent video and video art history. The
periodical Radical Software, an 11-issue, 690-page
compendium of articles, essays, schemes and diagrams
by everyone who was thinking and writing about video
from 1970 to 1974, was no less significant.
The readership that they reached out to was mainly
young, often in college or university, even high school,
and prone to support cultural and social change. Many
took up the Raindance challenge and developed video
programs of their own. Their impact on our media culture
has yet to be properly calculated and understood and
may even yet be unresolved. Let the re-publishing of
Radical Software on the Internet be the beginning
of a new evaluation.
What happened to them?
Frank Gillette, 2002
In addition to his many contributions to Radical
Software, Frank Gillette wrote Between Paradigms,
published by Gordon & Breach in 1973. He also pursued
a career in video art, making innovative and influential
multi-channel video installations. His list of exhibitions
is long and distinguished. He is a recipient of Guggenheim
and Rockefeller fellowships. He lives in New York and
does digital art today, creating large prints and editions.
Ira Schneider, 2002
Ira Schneider, too, pursued a career in video art, also
doing installations and teaching at San Diego and Cooper
Union. He is a Guggenheim fellow, also, in addition
to many other honors. He lives in Berlin, Germany, where
he continues to make video and photographic works.
Beryl Korot, 2002
Beryl Korot, also a Guggenheim fellow, made two important
works, Dachau and Text and Commentary,
before devoting herself to painting for several years.
She re-entered the video world in the early 90s, working
with composer Steve Reich to create large-screen digital
video and choral music pieces, often dealing with major
cultural issues. Her works are shown all over the world.
Phyllis Segura, 2002
Phyllis Segura (Gershuny), a painter, lives just outside
New York on the Hudson River. She is also a Personal
Chef and the founder of Broadshirt, a poetry magazine.
Michael Shamberg, 2003
Michael Shamberg is a film producer. His company, Jersey
Films, which he co-directs with Danny DeVito and Stacey
Sher, has produced Erin Brockovich, Man On
The Moon, Gattaca, and Pulp Fiction.
Marco Vassi, 1971
Marco Vassi achieved a measure of fame as a lecturer
and writer of erotic literature, publishing such titles
as: The Devil's Sperm Is Cold, Slave Lover,
Contours of Darkness, The Stoned Apocalypse,
and others, before his untimely death in 1989 at the
age of 51.
Louis Jaffe, 2003
Louis Jaffe lives in San Francisco, where he is involved
with Greeninfo Network, a group that does GIS mapping
for conservation groups. He still plays the guitar and
Paul Ryan, 2002
Paul Ryan is a Core Faculty Member of the Media Studies
Program at the New School University in New York, where
he writes and makes videotapes. He is the inventor of
the Earthscore Notational System, an environmental
approach to producing video and is the author of several
books and many articles. His book titles include Cybernetics
of the Sacred and Video Mind, Earth Mind.
Dean & Dudley Everson, 2003
Dean and Dudley Evenson live in Bellingham, Washington,
where they create, produce, and distribute Soundings
Of The Planet, an ongoing series of very successful
meditative music CDs that they initiated in 1979.
How this article was researched
This article was researched first by interviewing all
living Raindance members with the exception of Jody
Sibert and Megan Williams, whom I could not reach by
phone or e-mail. All issues of Radical Software
were scanned and scrutinized, and some personal memory
of events was drawn upon. Any mistakes in describing
events in the text are the author's own.
I'd like to thank Louis Jaffé for the use of
photos 1 through 6 from his archive. The rhinoceros
photo is from the Raindance book, Guerrilla Television.
With the exception of the recent photos of Louis Jaffé,
Michael Shamberg, and Ira Schneider, the other photos
are by the author.
Gigliotti © 2003