Frank Gillette,
1970

Frank Gillette, an artist and radical media activist, conceived the Raindance Corporation in New York during the summer of 1969. It was Gillette's intention to found an alternative media think tank; a source of ideas, publications, videotapes and energy providing a theoretical basis for implementing communication tools in the project of social change.

To make his point, Gillette chose the name Raindance as an ironic reference to the Rand Corporation, then and now an establishment think tank advising government and industry.


Gillette's concept grew out of a matrix of ideas, events, and relationships that had developed over the previous years. One important passage was his friendship with Alan Krebs' and his association with Kreb's Free University on East 14th Street in New York, where he taught a seminar in McLuhan during the winter of 1967-68.

The McLuhan seminar led Gillette to a meeting with Paul Ryan, who was working with Marshall McLuhan as a research fellow at Fordham during McLuhan's Albert Schweitzer Professorship year. The two became friends and, in the spring of 1968, Ryan, who himself had been working with videotape, loaned Gillette two Sony portapaks with cameras, two small studio cameras, two playback decks, and two monitors that had been donated to the university.



Paul Ryan,
1970


Gillette took it all back to his loft on Avenue A and 6th St, and began a summer of video experimentation, which included street recording, developing installation-type set-ups in his loft, and pondering the implications of this new type of image-making.

Gillette was not the only person experimenting with video in New York at that time. During his taping sessions in front of Gem's Spa on the corner of St. Mark's Place and 2nd Avenue, he came to the attention, on separate occasions, of Howard Gutstadt and Victor Gioscia.

Gutstadt, an artist, introduced Gillette to David Cort and Ken Marsh, also artists, who were working with a camera and one-inch video deck in Brooklyn during the 1968 citywide teacher's strike. Cort, Marsh, Gutstadt, Gillette and his friend, Harvey Simons, formed a loose discussion group that they called Commediation, meeting occasionally over the fall of 1968. Eric Siegal, Les Levine, and Nam June Paik also sat with them from time to time.

Victor Gioscia, a philosopher, Adelphi professor and Director of Research for Jewish Family Services, was himself using video both in connection with his work as a family therapist, and as teacher at Adelphi, where he taught the work of McLuhan and Bateson and conducted a portapak lab. Gioscia, too, was deeply interested in the implications of video for social change, and he and Gillette shared a lively interest in Marshall McLuhan, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCullough, and other thinkers.

 



Ira Schneider,
1971


In December, 1968, Gillette was introduced to Ira Schneider. Schneider came from a background of hard science - experimental psychology and neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin - but had turned to filmmaking, winning awards for his short films.

In January of 1969, David Brooks, a filmmaker & teacher, invited Schneider to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to do a workshop. Schneider invited Gillette to go along - the beginning of an important collaboration and friendship.


The following Spring Gillette and Schneider were invited to participate in TV as a Creative Medium, a group show focusing on those artists in New York who were working with video in 1969, curated by Howard Wise at his gallery on 57th Street. Gillette and Schneider proposed an interactive, multi-channel video piece called Wipe Cycle, the idea for which had grown out of Gillette's experience with the equipment he had worked with over the previous summer, and Schneider's concern with viewer interaction and delayed feedback. Wise agreed to fund the project with $10,000.

Wipe Cycle was a complex piece, requiring special circuitry to realize. It was not beyond Gillette's ability to imagine, but it was Schneider who understood how it could be built. The successful completion and exhibition of this very early video installation further enhanced the friendship and respect between the two men.

 


Through a mutual friend, Gillette met Michael Shamberg, a young reporter for Time Magazine. Shamberg had read McLuhan, was impressed by Gillette's conceptualization of video's importance as the right tool for change at that critical time, and was also impressed with the medium's obvious potential for innovative journalism. Shamberg pitched a story idea about Wise's gallery show - and Wipe Cycle - to his editor at Time, and got the assignment to write it. Shamberg and Gillette hit it off and, before long, Shamberg was thinking about quitting his job and joining Gillette in a new enterprise.



Michael Shamberg,
1971
 


But before Raindance could emerge, one more element had to come into place. Through a fortuitous connection stemming from Schneider's Antioch workshop the previous winter, Gillette was introduced to Louis Jaffe, a young musician from Virginia. Jaffe had dropped out of Antioch, worked summers as a news photographer, traveled across the country, and arrived in New York looking for a project. He had family money to invest, but he wanted to invest it in something personally meaningful.

He came from a media family - his father had been an important newspaperman in Virginia- so a media project felt right to him. He liked Gillette and Shamberg and agreed to help fund Raindance. Over the first year and a half, Jaffe would fund Raindance in the amount of about $70,000.

 


Gillette, Shamberg, Jaffe, and Gillette's friend Marco Vassi, registered Raindance as a Delaware corporation in October of 1969.

The circle of people revolving around Raindance at the beginning included Paul Ryan, Vic Gioscia, Megan Williams and Harvey Simonds in addition to the Raindance founders. Not all were members in the strict sense of the word, but all were interested in the potential for cultural change of half-inch video and formed an affinity group around Gillette's think tank idea. Also involved in Raindance's day to day activities was Jody Sibert, originally employed as office help, but gradually attaining full membership in Raindance.

The Founding Members

Frank Gillette, Raindance's first president, had, in the parlance of the day, the "best rap." He could talk convincingly about video, media, the future, and Raindance's place in it. Conversant with several areas of related knowledge, and much influenced by the thought of Gregory Bateson, Gillette was an articulate, even silver-tongued, presenter. A brilliant idea man, he was, however, no administrator. He showed up at the Raindance offices only sporadically, preferring to work at home.

Michael Shamberg was a professional writer with journalistic experience. He had a good understanding of administration, and the world of big media. He gradually assumed more and more of the administrative duties of Raindance, and, in time, at Louis Jaffe's request, Gillette willingly stepped down from the leadership in Shamberg's favor.

 


Marco Vassi,
1970


Louis Jaffe had a complement of media skills, and the resources, energy, and vision to support Raindance in its first year and become involved in its daily activities. He functioned as Radical Software's circulation manager in its early days.

Marco Vassi was Gillette's friend, on hand because Gillette didn't know Shamberg and Jaffe that well, and wanted a friend in Raindance that he could count on. Vassi was a writer and an articulate advocate of sexual freedom.

 


Ira Schneider and Beryl Korot

Schneider and Gillette had drawn apart after their collaboration on Wipe Cycle and on a subsequent abortive project designing a video display for the American Can Company, a project in which Woody Vasulka, a well-known video artist today, was also involved.

 


That summer, Schneider decided to join with John Reilly in a partnership called Televisionaries, and produced several videotapes with him.

Beryl Korot, recently graduated from college, worked for Barbara Epstein at the New York Review of Books. Previous to that she had worked for Nanine Bilski, first at the NYU School of the Arts, and then at Cybern Education, a public art consulting firm. She and Schneider had known each other at the University of Wisconsin, and had reacquainted back in hometown New York. Korot had real-world magazine experience and she and Schneider had often talked about a periodical to serve the incipient video community. During the fall of 1969, Korot met Phyllis Gershuny.

Phyllis Gershuny

Gershuny had just returned to New York after a long stay in Europe, where she had been introduced to video by John Hopkins, a British journalist and photographer. She, too, had thought about starting a newsletter for the developing video community, and had already some ideas as to format. After some initial meetings, Gershuny and Korot decided to work together to produce a publication.



Beryl Korot, 1970


Phyllis Gershuny,
1970

 


24E22nd st, 2003


Gershuny knew a bit about filmmaking, had worked with the Living Theater in Europe, and had a good sense of what video could become, although she made no tapes herself. Without any prospect of support except encouragement from Schneider, the two women started to work on The Video Newsletter, their working title for what finally would become Radical Software.

Meanwhile, Schneider was becoming dissatisfied with his situation. Over the fall of 1969, Televisionaries had evolved, with the arrival of Rudy Stern, into Global Village. It had become a video theater, with an exhibition schedule, ads in the Village Voice, and an emphasis on paying audiences. It wasn't long before priorities clashed. When Schneider found that he could not play his newly shot Rolling Stones Altamont Music Festival tapes there, he left Global Village in December of 1969 and joined Raindance shortly afterwards, bringing with him good video productions skills and, through his association with Korot and Gershuny, the possibility of a video newsletter.


Shortly after Schneider joined Raindance, the Raindance principals leased a loft at 24 East 22nd Street. Shamberg quit his job at Time Magazine soon after.

The Center for Decentralized Television

Raindance's pressing need was for a project that would establish the group both financially and professionally. The newsletter was months away, and Jaffe's financial aid, generous though it was, was rapidly being spent. Paul Ryan had a consultancy with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and he informed Raindance of a major budget increase in that organization, and the introduction, through NYSCA's Film Department, of a large allocation for new media.

In the early spring of 1970, while Korot and Gershuny were working on their newsletter, Shamberg and Schneider proposed, through the Jewish Museum, to have Raindance serve as a regranting agency for part of the newly committed allocation. They named their program The Center for Decentralized Television, a humorous title, and drew up a plan to administer and regrant $250K to independent videomakers, on the premise that they knew the field well and could distribute grants fairly. Editing and distribution facilities were also posited as part of a complete program that would put Raindance in the central position of New York's young alternate video community. NYSCA, uncertain of its own understanding of this new media landscape and the characters who inhabited it, tentatively agreed to award Raindance $250,000 to assume the re-granting role.

This brought Raindance to the immediate attention of Schneider's old partners Reilly and Stern at Global Village, but also the Videofreex, a video collective started by David Cort and Parry Teasdale, and People's Video Theater, organized by Ken Marsh, Howard Gutstadt, and Elliot Glass. Raindance's plan met with vigorous opposition, mainly on the part of Global Village. Reilly and Stern skillfully drummed up a groundswell of criticism, in the face of which NYSCA rescinded their offer. It was a defeat, more than a defeat - a disaster that poisoned the atmosphere in New York's nascent independent video community for months, years in some cases, afterward. It would probably have spelled the end of Raindance if it hadn't been for Radical Software.

Radical Software

In June of 1970, Beryl Korot and Phyllis Gershuny sent the first issue of Radical Software to the printer. It was printed in quarter-fold format in blue ink, with a computer-derived image on the cover. The order was for 2000 copies. On the masthead Michael Shamberg was listed as Publisher, Ira Schneider as co-Originator, and Korot and Gershuny as Editors. The Raindance Corporation was also listed as publisher.

There was an editorial, written by Korot, Gershuny, and Shamberg, noting the relationship between power and control of information, and the importance of freeing television from corporate control. It also included a balanced assessment of technology as a cultural force, and recommended an ecological approach to understanding it. The Raindancers used the term ecology in its original scientific sense, the study of systems within their environments. This applied to all systems, — cultural, informational, and political, — as well as referring to natural systems as the term is usually understood today. "We need to get good tools into good hands - not to reject all tools because they have been misused to benefit only the few," Shamberg wrote.

To demonstrate their commitment to free information, they rejected the standard copyright mark in favor of a new one, a circle with an X inside it, meaning, "please copy."

Issue one of Radical Software contained an article by Gillette on media ecology and another on the evils of EVR (a proprietary playback system developed by CBS); by Paul Ryan on the communication possibilities of cable TV; by Gene Youngblood on "The Videosphere." Nam June Paik weighed in with "Expanded Education for the Paperless Society," two pages of observations, quotes and news clips. Thea Sklover wrote a report on the state of cable television in America, and Robert Kragen wrote on "Art and TV." There were contributions from Shamberg, Vassi, Aldo Tambellini, Jud Yalkut, Alex Gross, Richard Kahlenberg, and others. Also of note was a description by Bonnie Kline and Dorothy Henaut, both from the Canadian program Challenge for Change, of their experiences bringing portapak media access to local community groups in Montreal.

Also included was an interview by the Raindance Corporation with R.Buckminster Fuller, transcribed from a Raindance videotape, on broad subjects of Earth Day, the evolution of civilization, some reminiscences on his youth, aspects of the space program, and the meaning of ecology.

The "FEEDBACK" section on the last pages offered contributions from 32 groups and individuals all of who were involved with portapak video to one degree or another.

It was an impressive first issue. Most were given away, about 700 were sold for $1 each. Costs for printing and mailing came to about $2,000. Korot and Schneider drove across country and distributed the issue to bookstores.

In September of 1970, additional copies of the same issue were printed, and work began on the second issue.

Radical Software number 2 had the same format as number 1. This time the emphasis was on technology. There was a laser and holography article by Lloyd Cross, and articles by Parry Teasdale, Eric Siegal, Andrea Brown and Charles Bensinger. There were two by Paul Ryan, and one, entitled Frequency and Form, by Vic Gioscia.

But the first five pages were about cable TV and the electromagnetic spectrum, containing charts, text, and interviews, compiled and written by Beryl Korot. It was an exhaustive survey, providing a wealth of data for public access activists.

Instead of an editorial, there was a discussion of the financial picture engendered by issue number 1, clearly indicating a loss.

During this period, 1970-71, The New York State Council on the Arts positioned itself as the major support system for alternative video in New York, and had opened a new department, TV/Media. But to qualify for a direct grant from NYSCA, it was necessary to be a tax-exempt cultural institution, a 501(c)3 (1). Grants could be obtained by non-qualifying groups only through 'umbrella' organizations, qualified non-profit institutions which were willing to assume the necessary fiscal accountability.

For their thwarted Center for Decentralized Television project, the Raindance Corporation had applied through the Jewish Museum in New York. Although they did not get the grant expected, they did get $35,000, which, when finally received in the spring of 1971, went some way toward easing Raindance's growing financial burden. Raindance finally became a 501(c)3 itself in June, 1971, changing its name to the Raindance Foundation.

By the time of the third issue, Spring, 1971, the Raindance forces began to realize that putting out a magazine on schedule was labour-intensive activity, taking time away from more amenable projects like making videotapes and developing a viable tape distribution system. Radical Software, important though it obviously was, was a cost center, and Raindance had no sources of income except money initially donated by Jaffe (which had been largely spent), whatever they could attain from NYSCA, and whatever they could raise from doing consultancies. This time the editorial strongly hinted that Radical Software might be discontinued after a few more issues.

Issue number 3 also saw Gershuny replaced as co-editor by Michael Shamberg, and reduced to Associate Editor on the masthead. Gershuny's contributions to the initial founding energy of Radical Software were many, involving conceptualization, design, and content. Never invited to join Raindance, however, Gershuny left Radical Software after the third issue.

(1) Note : 501(c)3 is a status designation for non profit organization under the National Revenue Act of the United States of America.

Dean and Dudley Evenson

Fortunately, over the winter of 1970-71, some fresh energy arrived at Raindance in Dean and Dudley Evenson from New York's Lower East Side, the spawning ground of many early New York video people. Dean, like Ira Schneider, came from a hard science background; in his case, molecular biology. He was also an accomplished musician, a flautist, who had worked in New York's sound studios as a recording engineer. He had a professional understanding of the ins and outs of audio and video signals. Dudley was a professional photographer. They had attended, with portapak, the Alternate Media Conference at Goddard in the spring of 1970, meeting members of New York's video community there. Good workers, they found a home with Raindance, which, with a periodical to produce and other projects under way, needed their skills and energy.

Issue number 4 of Radical Software, Summer, 1971, edited by Korot and Megan Williams, was the most ambitious yet, 79 pages and a two-color cover designed by the Ant Farm. It was Raindance's first experiment with "farming out" parts of an issue, and the result was a rich, and dense, compilation of material - proposals, essays, and reports - from Canadian and California-based video and alternate media groups.

By now the price for a single issue of Radical Software was at $3.00 per copy, and press runs were at 10,000. Transparent to a fault, the Raindancers included a section near the masthead where all the financials of the current issue and the previous issue were detailed. Profit remained illusive. The Raindancers were fronting the bulk of printing and distribution costs themselves, and had never yet come close to covering them. Many copies were still given away, and few were sold at the cover price.

Guerrilla Television

During the late winter of 1971, Shamberg went to Nassau in the Bahamas and wrote a book. As a result of his experiences publishing Radical Software and, most particularly, his association with Gillette, Paul Ryan, Schneider, Korot and others in the Raindance affinity group, Shamberg decided to attempt to put the message of Radical Software into book form. It would, he thought, bring Raindance, and Radical Software, to a wider audience, and offer a more permanent repository for the Raindance idea than the disposable issues of the magazine. At the same time, it might bring in some much needed revenue. A history of successful alternative publishing was taking shape, sparked by Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog.

Distilling the 'raps' of Gillette and others, and writings of Paul Ryan about the aggressive use of video in the social ferment of the early 70s, Shamberg retailed them in popular book form. Guerrilla Television, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, appeared in the bookstores in November, 1971.

 


Guerrilla Television
outlined an alternate media philosophy and practicum, an instructional text with essays, illustrations, and practical advice written in language appropriate to young activists. Although the exact distribution figures are not known, it may have sold 25,000 copies, perhaps more.

Designed by Ant Farm, a west coast video and design group that Shamberg had contact with through his college friend, Allen Rucker, Guerrilla Television was divided into two sections: 'Meta Manual', which consisted of a distillation of the ideas of his associates transmogrified by Shamberg, and 'Manual', which contained more practical information. Executed with wit and a lively graphic style, it was a Radical Software in book form and was meant to be so. It was designated Vol. I, Number 6 of Radical Software, although it appeared on the street before Number 5.




At the beginning was a photo of a dead rhinoceros and a wrecked car. On the opposite page was a photo of an ape climbing a TV antenna. These images typified the Raindance philosophy; that you could not change the world order by attacking it head-on without annihilating yourself in the process, but that with a more patient, determined, and conscious approach, you could have an impact upon it.

It did not make a lot of money, but it did bring Raindance national notice, and coupled it with an identifying concept - 'guerrilla television'. The term became the byword for a colorful style of aggressive video activism.


Major Changes

Changes in both Radical Software and Raindance were reflected in issue number 5, Spring, 1972. For some time there had been the growing feeling, reflected in Radical Software editorials, that editing, producing and distributing the periodical took too much time away from what they saw as their main interest - making videotapes. 'Farming out" issues to other video groups was one time and labour-saving tactic. Finding a publisher to handle production and distribution duties was another. Schneider found an interested publisher in Gordon and Breach, science publishers who had also published books by Frank Gillette and Paul Ryan. Raindance agreed to provide the camera-ready editorial content, and Gordon and Breach would print and distribute the result. Issue number 5 was the first one so produced. It featured a 9" x 12" magazine format, and was priced at $1.95. It contained 53 entries and articles, spread out over 124 pages.

Personnel changes were also afoot. The Raindance staff, as listed in issue #5, consisted of Dean Evenson, Dudley Evenson, Beryl Korot, Ira Schneider, Michael Shamberg, Jodie Sibert, and Megan Williams. Gone were Louis Jaffe and Frank Gillette. Paul Ryan, an important member of the Raindance affinity group, had moved to the country to write and make tapes; Marco Vassi had moved to Woodstock and was writing erotic novels - with some success. Soon others would follow. It was rapidly becoming apparent that Raindance alone could never entirely support its members or, in some cases, their ambitions.

Top Value Television (TVTV)

Michael Shamberg, for example, along with his friend Allen Rucker, had long thought that portapak video was an ideal medium for a type of subversive journalism they envisioned. But Raindance, committed now to publishing Radical Software and to weekly screenings of videotapes by various New York videomakers, could not be the vehicle for that idea. The productions that Shamberg and Rucker envisioned required more people, more portapaks, better editing systems, and deeper financial support than Raindance could ever provide.

Early in 1972 Shamberg conceived Top Value Television or TVTV, a consortium that would combine the work of several video groups - Videofreex, Ant Farm, and some Raindancers, and others - in large-scale production efforts. It paid off. TVTV's coverage of the 1972 Democratic and Republican conventions had some national impact, and the production team went on to do several projects under Shamberg's and Rucker's leadership. Shamberg's effort's took him and Megan Williams to San Francisco and away from Raindance, but ultimately led him to a Hollywood career in film production.

The Cost of Survival

On a purely financial level, Raindance could not survive as originally configured. Salaries never approached a living wage for New York City, even in 1972. In-kind payments were not unusual. Dean and Dudley Evenson, for example, lived in back of the Raindance loft. The rest got small salaries, maybe $45 a week, and eked out what living they could or lived off savings.

New York City, then as now, was an expensive venue. Some video groups, like the Videofreex, paid small salaries, $25 per week, and made ends meet by living together. But even this strategy failed, and in 1971, the Videofreex left town for a farmhouse in the Catskills. Country living in the Catskill counties had many attractions; a population of like-minded friends, the nearby center of Woodstock and an inexpensive and unpressured lifestyle.

NYSCA Rules!

One other important advantage to having one's headquarters in the country stemmed from the way NYSCA distributed money. By 1971, nearly every embryo video group in the state of New York had applied to the New York State Council on the Arts for money with a reasonable expectation of getting some. NYSCA had undergone a major budget increase, going from 2.5 million in 1969-70 to 20 million the following year. This change, and the further budget increases that followed, had the effect of democratizing the arts in New York to an unprecedented degree. Its impact on the young video community was immense.

NYSCA's enabling legislation mandated that NYSCA grant money be distributed by county on a per capita basis ensuring, theoretically at least, each individual receive so many cents worth of cultural benefit. This made New York City a hotspot. With a large population it could expect to receive a large share of NYSCA money, but it also generated a very large number of applications; competition was fierce, and some of the applicants were the huge NYC cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum and the Bronx Zoo. Video applications proliferated. Dance companies, performance groups, arts organizations of all kinds, developed video programs and applied to NYSCA for grants.

By moving to an upstate county, with few or no arts organizations applying for funds, one's application might have a better chance of serious consideration.

Dean and Dudley Evenson had experimented with country living during the summer of 1971, enjoyed it, and decided to change from a city life to a country life with a different group of video friends in Downsville, New York, Delaware County. And, in the Spring of 1972, Schneider and Korot, now the permanent Editors-in- Chief of Radical Software and, effectively, the remaining members of Raindance, bought a small house in Ruby, New York, a rural hamlet in Ulster county. There they made videotapes and developed personal projects in addition to continuing with the publication of Volume II of Radical Software. Schneider and Korot divided their time between Ruby, New York, and a New York City apartment.

Volume II would consist of 6 more issues of Radical Software, four of them farmed out; one to a group of video artists from Los Angeles, another to a video group from San Francisco, another to a group connected with Antioch College.

The Last Radical Software

The last issue of Radical Software, produced by the Center for Understanding Media at the New School in New York, appeared in Spring of 1974. Disagreements between Gordon and Breach and Raindance over the annual number of issues and the quality of print production finally brought Radical Software to an end. Schneider and Korot wanted to publish six issues a year, feeling that it was the only way that technical information, which formed a part of Radical Software's content, could be kept current. The publishers wanted to publish semi-annually. The editors also felt that print and paper quality and photographic reproduction was not up to journal standards. Schneider and Korot and their publisher agreed to dissolve their relationship, and Radical Software was discontinued.

The name most consistently associated with the leadership of Radical Software was that of Beryl Korot. She was a founder, and was on the masthead as co-Editor or co-Editor-in-Chief of every issue but one - Volume I, Number 5 - which was edited by Shamberg and Dudley Evenson, and on which Korot served as Associate Editor.

Raindance continued as an umbrella for artists who had been associated with it, such as Schneider and Korot, Frank Gillette, and later, Juan Downey.

Video Art: An Anthology

 


After Radical Software, there was a hiatus on publications until 1975, when Schneider and Korot wrote proposals for a set of two books, Video Art: An Anthology and Video Documentary. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich accepted their proposal, but only one book, Video Art, was produced.

Video Art: An Anthology, was the last publication to bear the Raindance imprimatur. It sold 11,000 copies in hardcover and paperback. A survey of practicing video artists was done, and seventy video artists were each given two pages to present information about their work. In addition, there were essays by Wulf Herzogenrath, Douglas Davis, John Hanhardt, David Ross, Willoughby Sharp, Peter Frank, David Antin, Frank Gillette, Davidson Gigliotti, among others.



Video Art: An Anthology
seems a long jump from Raindance's earlier publications. Certainly neither Guerrilla Television nor Radical Software were particularly preoccupied with video art, per se, at least not as it is usually understood. That is, until we remember that Gillette and Schneider, who were instrumental in both Raindance and Radical Software's existence, came first to the attention of the video community as the creators of Wipe Cycle, one of video art history's seminal artworks.

And that today, with Beryl Korot, an actual founder of Radical Software, they are mostly known for their subsequent careers as video artists. It calls for some rethinking about video art and its origins.

Rethinking Video Art after Raindance

It is helpful to remember that video art, one version at least, was born subversive. It was a product of people whose goal it was to challenge America's then static information order by throwing television back in its face, using a new medium, small format videotape, which seemed ideally suited to the job. Though few were MFAs, many, not just the Raindancers, were educated in the arts and were at home in the realm of art and ideas about art. But most were clear that art itself was not the whole point.

 


They thought that interpreting video simply as another medium like painting or sculpture diminished its potential. Putting video in an art context was all very well. But it was understood that if that meant limiting it to a gallery and museum audience, as painting and sculpture then were, a large part of video's power would be lost. "Don't bury us in the museums," David Cort, founder of the Videofreex, would say, "that will finish us off for sure."

Coda



David Cort, 1970


Raindance remained active as an umbrella for artists applying to various funding agencies, and as the sponsor of Night Light TV, a New York cable program curated by Ira Schneider with Russ Johnson, featuring classics of video art. Raindance came to a close when Schneider, after receiving a Fulbright fellowship, moved to Berlin, Germany in 1993.

To Conclude

Raindance positioned itself as a video collective, but the group always retained elements of Gillette's powerful think tank idea, even after Gillette himself had largely withdrawn.

The members themselves, and their associates, had been teachers, journalists, artists, writers, scientists, and filmmakers, and were well read in the culture of the 60s. Like many, they felt a strong mission to help challenge and change the information order of the day, then dominated by network TV and corporate press.

But Raindance members wanted to have a wider impact in the media community than simple independent video making could offer at that time. Publications were one important route to influence. Raindance produced two significant books, Guerrilla Television and Video Art: An Anthology which will always be an important part of independent video and video art history. The periodical Radical Software, an 11-issue, 690-page compendium of articles, essays, schemes and diagrams by everyone who was thinking and writing about video from 1970 to 1974, was no less significant.

The readership that they reached out to was mainly young, often in college or university, even high school, and prone to support cultural and social change. Many took up the Raindance challenge and developed video programs of their own. Their impact on our media culture has yet to be properly calculated and understood and may even yet be unresolved. Let the re-publishing of Radical Software on the Internet be the beginning of a new evaluation.

 
 

What happened to them?

 

Frank Gillette, 2002
 

In addition to his many contributions to Radical Software, Frank Gillette wrote Between Paradigms, published by Gordon & Breach in 1973. He also pursued a career in video art, making innovative and influential multi-channel video installations. His list of exhibitions is long and distinguished. He is a recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships. He lives in New York and does digital art today, creating large prints and editions.



Ira Schneider, 2002
 


Ira Schneider, too, pursued a career in video art, also doing installations and teaching at San Diego and Cooper Union. He is a Guggenheim fellow, also, in addition to many other honors. He lives in Berlin, Germany, where he continues to make video and photographic works.



Beryl Korot, 2002
 


Beryl Korot, also a Guggenheim fellow, made two important works, Dachau and Text and Commentary, before devoting herself to painting for several years. She re-entered the video world in the early 90s, working with composer Steve Reich to create large-screen digital video and choral music pieces, often dealing with major cultural issues. Her works are shown all over the world.



Phyllis Segura, 2002
 


Phyllis Segura (Gershuny), a painter, lives just outside New York on the Hudson River. She is also a Personal Chef and the founder of Broadshirt, a poetry magazine.



Michael Shamberg, 2003
 


Michael Shamberg is a film producer. His company, Jersey Films, which he co-directs with Danny DeVito and Stacey Sher, has produced Erin Brockovich, Man On The Moon, Gattaca, and Pulp Fiction.



Marco Vassi, 1971
 


Marco Vassi achieved a measure of fame as a lecturer and writer of erotic literature, publishing such titles as: The Devil's Sperm Is Cold, Slave Lover, Contours of Darkness, The Stoned Apocalypse, and others, before his untimely death in 1989 at the age of 51.



Louis Jaffe, 2003
 


Louis Jaffe lives in San Francisco, where he is involved with Greeninfo Network, a group that does GIS mapping for conservation groups. He still plays the guitar and makes photographs.



Paul Ryan, 2002
 


Paul Ryan is a Core Faculty Member of the Media Studies Program at the New School University in New York, where he writes and makes videotapes. He is the inventor of the Earthscore Notational System, an environmental approach to producing video and is the author of several books and many articles. His book titles include Cybernetics of the Sacred and Video Mind, Earth Mind.



Dean & Dudley Everson, 2003
 


Dean and Dudley Evenson live in Bellingham, Washington, where they create, produce, and distribute Soundings Of The Planet, an ongoing series of very successful meditative music CDs that they initiated in 1979.


How this article was researched

This article was researched first by interviewing all living Raindance members with the exception of Jody Sibert and Megan Williams, whom I could not reach by phone or e-mail. All issues of Radical Software were scanned and scrutinized, and some personal memory of events was drawn upon. Any mistakes in describing events in the text are the author's own.

I'd like to thank Louis Jaffé for the use of photos 1 through 6 from his archive. The rhinoceros photo is from the Raindance book, Guerrilla Television. With the exception of the recent photos of Louis Jaffé, Michael Shamberg, and Ira Schneider, the other photos are by the author.

Davidson Gigliotti 2003

 
   
 
 

 
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