Portapak Conversation


1973 | 00:08:25 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 4:3 | 1/2" open reel video

Collection: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles

Tags: Film or Videomaking, Gender, TV production, Technology, Television

This eight-minute video is part experimental video art, part sketch comedy routine, and part informational lesson on the advantages and disadvantages of owning Sony's latest video technology. In it, David and Carol participate in a brilliantly theatrical, seemingly improvisational conversation, in which each one adopts the specific identity and perspective associated with a particular video technology: David plays the part of the Sony Camera AVC 3400, while Carol takes on the personality of the Sony Portapak AV3400. Caught in a lover’s quarrel, the two banter and argue, each speaking from their perspective as a machine. Carol asserts, “Sync, your power, your ability is dependent on me…you’re just eyes to me camera.” David retorts, “I am immediate, I say yes to life,” eventually jabbing, “You eat tape like a pig.”

Later, their debate gets more heated, playing upon the sexual innuendo that their gendered voices and attitudes embody. Carol criticizes David, the camera, claiming, “your ego is so aggressive and offensive,” to which David replies to the portapak, “you’re overheating all the time…I’m just zippy zappy.” Since each thinks the other is inferior to his or her own model and function, David and Carol’s narcissistic mode of argumentation serves as an excellent learning tool: the viewer learns quite a bit about the use, cost, pit falls, and applications of each machine in 1971.

Portapak Conversation is a quintessential Videofreex video—playful and educational, creative yet accessible—all the while, consistently showcasing intelligent video work, as seen with the superimposing of David and Carol’s faces onto the objects they claim to represent, a move that anticipates the later development of video installations by artists such as Tony Oursler that make use of projected animations on inanimate objects.

—Faye Gleisser

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Exhibitions + Festivals

DINCA Vision Quest Festival, Chicago, 2015