Skip to main content

Tosun's Dinner and Wake


1971 00:32:14 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


In this tape the Videofreex document an impromptu experimental art gathering in 1971, hosted by New York artist, Tosun Bayrak. Before entering the gathering, the Freex record their encounters with a police officer, passersby, and a member of Vegetarians for Ecological Action (an animals’ rights activist group) protesting the misuse of animals in performance art. On the door leading up to the space where the gathering will take place, Bayrak publicizes the evening as a “wake for the late Captain Hasan Tursun Efendi” and a “Ritualistic Celebration Commemorating a War Hero” in keeping with his recent experimental performance art practice. Later, when inside this “ritualistic celebration,” the Freex document the haziness of the crowded room, aquariums filled with crustaceous oddities, hypnotic chanting, dance, food offerings, and noisy musical interludes.

In addition to providing the rare opportunity to enter an intimate space of a performance, decades after its enactment, this tape is rich in its historical preservation of the intersection of politics, art, law enforcement, and mysticism, a nexus that developed throughout the 1970s as body art and radical practice emerged. The confluence of ambiguous actions, snippets of overheard comments from attendees, and the ambient mood of the evening provide an excellent portrait of the type of environment—shaped by physical, sociological, and emotional dynamics—in which experimental performance art and its audiences came to be during the ‘70s.

— 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