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St. Marks: New Years Eve


1970 00:22:40 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


St. Marks: New Years Eve combines political commentary with non-narrative segments that celebrate the medium of video. The video’s tonal climax occurs at its beginning, in which a large crowd gathers at a live music event and stands to sing the national anthem with peace signs and middle fingers held high in the air above them.

This footage transitions to an intimate jam session in a dimly lit room that gives way to cuts between close up shots of two individuals reading a book. One asks the other “tit-a-tat? Does that mean something?”. Their counterpart responds without a conclusive answer to the question. This short sequence cuts to footage of two people alone in an empty room, kissing on a folding chair. The final sequence is a documented conversation between four people tangled up in one another, speaking to the camera and amongst themselves.

By documenting a variety of situations without respect to plot or length, the Videofreex deconstruct existing standards of ‘acceptable’ media. In St. Marks: New Year’s Eve, the Videofreex center themselves and their peers within a political and mass media climate that leaves minimal avenues for public self-representation.

— Charlotte Strange

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