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Mayday Realtime (Excerpt)

David Cort

1971 00:10:27 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


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. Voice-over narration is absent, and the real time images are left to convey the urgency and confusion of unpredicatable events. The Portapak was promoted as a tool of the counterculture, recording video images that challenged its representation by the mainstream media. As social history, the tape provides a window into the ideological divisions that rocked society during these years, capturing demonstrators fleeing tear gas and helicopters air-lifting troops, not to a battlefield in Vietnam, but to a trimmed lawn in the nation's capitol.

The original total running time for this piece is 1:00:00, this is a 10:24 excerpt for this collection.

About David Cort

With a background in theater, David Cort began using video in the late 1960s to document political events and "bring together divergent peoples." Attracted to the intimacy of the portable medium and its interactive potential, Cort's works ranged from documentary and video theater to interactive video games, installations, and live video environments.

Cort was a founding member of Commediation, an early activist video group, and the Videofreex, a pioneering collective of 10 video activists and technicians formed in 1969 with Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Parry Teasdale, and several others. CBS invited the group to produce a pilot magazine show, Subject to Change, on the American scene. With the money provided by CBS for the project, the Videofreex acquired a sophisticated editing system, which they used in subsequent projects and made available to other independents. The program never went on the air, but the Videofreex continued to produce tapes and incorporated the Media Bus, traveling around the state with a mobile workshop program. In 1972 they moved to Maple Tree Farm in Lanesville, New York, where members lived and worked collectively.  Reflecting on the impetus behind these groups, Cort wrote: "I think a lot of people are in video because they have no choice—it's so overwhelmingly around you. It's almost like a responsibility you have to take, that you have to work with because it’s all-pervasive."