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Last Party at West End Avenue before Leaving for the Country


1971 00:29:44 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


In this video, the Videofreex host a party during which the main source of entertainment is a video-television feedback loop. In one room, a video camera linked up to a television set allows party guests to see themselves, as if in a mirror, while guests in the other room can also watch the recording, and may speak to them through a microphone. Although the voices of the off-screen guests can be heard on the tape, they are always imageless. In effect, the set up in the first room allows people to hear but not see those with whom they attempt to communicate, while those in the second room, although visually unknown, become the more authoritative narrators and choreographers of the videotaped acts captured in this tape recording. 

Davidson Gigliotti and his young son, Murphy, as well as Mary Curtis, Nancy, Carol, Frank, and other guests of the Videofreex, filter in and out of the two rooms to play in this impromptu video installation. Using masks and other props, they experiment with the feedback loop’s possibilities for communication and mistranslation. The last fifteen minutes of the tape become increasingly surreal as the high pitch of the sound system increases, and the camera, now rotated to its side, creates a world of total spatial and audio misalignment.

 While the party context is a playful one, the larger implications of this feedback installation resonate with the politics of representation utilized and constructed by the news media. It was exactly these types of mistranslations in the media's coverage of Vietnam and Civil Rights events, conditioned by the misalignment of visual and audio information, that alternative media groups, such as the Videofreex, and activist collectives like the Black Panthers, sought to expose and critique.

—Faye Gleisser


VDB Videofreex

Videofreex, one of the first video collectives, was founded in 1969 by David Cort, Mary Curtis Ratcliff and Parry Teasdale, after David and Parry met each other, video cameras in hand, at the Woodstock Music Festival. Working out of a loft in lower Manhattan, the group's first major project was producing a live and tape TV presentation for the CBS network, The Now Show, for which they traveled the country, interviewing countercultural figures such as Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

The group soon grew to ten full-time members--including Chuck Kennedy, Nancy Cain, Skip Blumberg, Davidson Gigliotti, Carol Vontobel, Bart Friedman and Ann Woodward--and produced tapes, installations and multimedia events. The Videofreex trained hundreds of makers in this brand new medium though the group's Media Bus project.

In 1971 the Freex moved to a 27-room, former boarding house called Maple Tree Farm in Lanesville, NY, operating one of the earliest media centers. Their innovative programming ranged from artists' tapes and performances to behind-the-scenes coverage of national politics and alternate culture. They also covered their Catskill Mountain hamlet, and in early 1972 they launched the first pirate TV station, Lanesville TV. An exuberant experiment with two-way, interactive broadcasting, it used live phone-ins and stretched cameras to the highway, transmitting whatever the active minds of the Freex coupled with their early video gear could share with their rural viewers.

During the decade that the Freex were together, this pioneer video group amassed an archive of 1,500+ raw tapes and edits.

In 2001, the Video Data Bank began assembling this unique archive of original 1/2-inch open-reel videos, collecting them from basements and attics where the tapes were stored. A restoration plan was hammered out in 2007 and a distribution contract was signed between VDB and the newly formalized Videofreex Partnership (administered by Skip Blumberg).

The Videofreex Archive, now housed at VDB, chronicles the countercultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The  titles listed here are the first wave of an ongoing project to preserve and digitize important examples of this early video.

More About the Videofreex Archive Preservation

Also see:

Parry Teasdale: An Interview

Videofreex Official Website