Video History

Let It Be

“The 1972 Women’s Video Festival [at the Kitchen] opened with an award-winning short by Steina Vasulka. Featuring close-ups of her mouth twitching and grimacing in accompaniment to the Beatles’s ‘Let It Be.’ Somewhere behind its humor and satire I feel a certain ‘tristesse’ which Steina might not like to reveal, but which penetrates into my socks like spring snow.”

—Shigeko Kubota

This title is also available on I Say I Am: Program 2.

Antonio Muntadas, Liege 12.9.77

Produced in Liege for Belgium TV, this tape considers how broadcast television functions in a multi-lingual area. A televised Tower of Babble, Muntadas shows the rigid conformity of style and content enforced through the medium, drawing attention to the similiar format of the programs broadcast in different languages.

Peer Bode, Light Bulb with circular update (camera zoom + pan + variable clock)

"Real time digital buffer recording, light bulb, panning camera motor and turntable. Light Bulb, the title says it almost all. Real time recording events. Two cameras, light bulb, camera panning motor, electric lazy susan, spinning white paper rectangle for the clip. Using the first digital video frame buffer I built together with David Jones, video buffer number one with variable clock. Several minutes of Rube Goldberg like digital electronics and optical props and motors. No computer, just entergetic digital slivers, shimmering and shattering." 

– Peer Bode

Paul Kos & Marlene Kos, Lightning

When I look for the lightning, it never strikes. When I look away, it does. Filmed inside a car, this tape focuses on observation of natural phenomena, presenting the obverse of the, "If a tree falls in the woods..." conundrum. Does observation change the course of events? Can you believe in things you don't see? In this experiment, the camera occupies a privileged position — showing the woman and what she sees, as well as what she cannot see.

Lines of Force

Lines of Force opens with footage of a dramatic explosion. For most of the piece, the screen is divided, into a triptych at first, and slowly into horizontal and vertical bars. Electronically manipulated footage shows a man walking, a marching band, ferns, cartoons, a window, and a train arriving on a set of tracks. The naturally occurring lines in the array of images presented mirror the electronically created bars and lines that divide the screen. Natural scenes provide a respite from the frantic pace of the images.

Lip Sync

An upside-down close-up of the artist’s mouth, Nauman repeats the words “lip sync” as the audio track shifts in and out of sync with the video. The disjunction between what is seen and heard keeps the viewer on edge, struggling to attach the sound of the words with the off-kilter movements of Nauman’s mouth.

This title was in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.

The Loner

Tripping out on loneliness, The Loner drifts through one daydream about “Her” after another. Oursler nightmarishly fantasizes about the dismal prospect of looking for love in a sleazy singles bar. Painfully aware of his lack, the hero is moved by his constant misrecognition of the object of his desire in an adolescent melodrama of sexual obsession and failure. As one of Oursler’s earliest tapes, The Loner is especially crude in its details, with many of the hand-painted sets dissolving under a stream of water. 

The Lord of the Universe

Sixteen-year-old guru Marahaj Ji attempts to levitate the Houston Astrodome in this 1973 DuPont award winning documentary. Follow the guru from his New York mansion to limousines in Houston and listen to his followers—celebrities and non-celebrities alike—extol his virtues. TVTV's creative use of graphics, live music, and wide-angle-lens shots to conveys the desperate efforts of these lost children to find a leader.

"If this guy is God, then this is the God the United States of America deserves." —Abbie Hoffman

Losing: A Conversation with the Parents

Treating the problem of anorexia nervosa from the parents' perspective, Rosler presents a mother and father speaking about the tragedy of their daughter's death as a result of dieting. The conversation turns toward the irony of self-starvation in a land of plenty and toward the international politics of food, where food aid is used as a negotiating tool. Confronting a serious issue, Rosler simultaneously sets into play the confessional form and the ghoulish staginess of talk show dramatics.


As a verite documentation of the May 1, 1971 demonstration against the Vietnam War staged in Washington, D.C., Mayday Realtime presents a largely unedited flow of events from the point of view of participants on the street. Cort's camera captures the random, disorienting incidents that marked the day - demonstrators holding up traffic in the Capitol, skirmishes with police, on-the-scene interviews with onlookers. The camera impulsively responds to shouting and movement on the street.

The Meaning of Various Newsphotos to Ed Henderson - 2

Baldessari asks Ed Henderson to discuss the meaning of selected news photos. Henderson invents the conditions of the where, when, and why each was taken—and decides whether the photo was altered in any way. This exercise complicates the reception of news media images and encourages a more analytical attitude towards the implicit meaning, and potentially faked reality, of such images.

This title was in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.

The Meaning of Various Photographs to Ed Henderson - 1

Baldessari presents photographs to his friend Ed Henderson and asks him to reconstruct the meaning of the image. In each case, Baldessari's strategy is to appropriate an existing image and remove it from its context in order to deconstruct the process of interpretation, and call the supposed objectivity of interpretation into question. The tape implicates the viewer in Ed Henderson's groundless exegesis, as he hypothesizes about the meaning of several photographs, speculating on their actual or staged reality.

Mitchell's Death

Using performance as a means of personal transformation and catharsis, Mitchell’s Death mourns the death of Montano’s ex-husband. Every detail of her story, from the telephone call announcing the tragedy, to visiting the body, is chanted by Montano as her face, pierced by acupuncture needles, slowly comes into focus then goes out again. The chanting is reminiscent of Buddhist texts, while the needles signify the pain that is necessary for healing and understanding.

Modern Times

Originally presented as a live performance piece using actors, multiple monitors, and music, Modern Times is a consolidation of seven short chapters in the life of a modern woman. In the first sequence, the objects in a suburban home are inventoried: "nice couch", "nice car", and so on — ending with the titles "nice concept", "nice image" — and unmasking this materialistic world as an impossible consumer fantasy. In the next scene, an attractive man sunbathes.

The Mom Tapes

Segalove takes her mom as subject in these short pieces, recording her stories, her advice, and her daily routine. What results is a portrait of a contemporary mother-daughter relationship, touchingly devoid of drama and full of whimsical humor. For example, in one piece, Ilene’s mother laments over a pair of shoes her daughter has chosen to hang on the wall instead of wearing, saying,”With you, everything is art.” In another segment the camera focuses on a pair of unoccupied, overstuffed chairs.