3/7/24: Virtual Talks with Video Activists: International Videoletters

A virtual screening/discussion about the International Videoletters feminist video network, featuring Ariel Dougherty and Lexington Davis.

Watch the full recording of the 3/7 event.

On 3/7/24, we hosted an online screening and discussion of work from the early feminist video network International Videoletters with filmmaker Ariel Dougherty and scholar Lexington Davis (University of St. Andrews). Additional participants from the project led off the discussion.

From 1975-1977, International Videoletters harnessed the still-new medium of video to share news, information, and art through the mail. A network of feminist collectives and organizations quickly built up, bypassing the established hierarchies of distribution in TV and film by sending tapes directly to each other. In the words of filmmaker Ariel Dougherty, “Subject matter ranged from women elected to municipal office to community actions for Karen Silkwood; from women’s work at a scrimp factory to tours of feminist cultural centers. Feedback was taped and incorporated in new tapes.” In the two years that the network was in operation, dozens of tapes were produced, creating a truly independent, truly radical grassroots media movement.

Unfortunately, very few of the Videoletters survived, due in part to the fact that tapes were frequently reused. Only seven tapes from this project are known to exist, including the two in our archive. You can watch our two tapes for free online:

Ariel Dougherty is a teacher / mentor / innovator / seer / leader of youth, women’s, and community media. An emphatic advocate of women-identified media, she was on the cutting edge of feminist filmmaking’s historic emergence in the late 1960s. Decades later she remains committed to community based, self-determined and independent media as paramount in transformation to a just society. She has written reports, analysis and dozens of articles on the intersections of feminism, media and funding. In urban and rural settings alike she has taught in after school programs and prisons; in special teacher workshops and museum programs gaining an unheralded experience and perspective. She has curated many series of film programs, including Women’s Work in Film and Video at the Women’s Studio Workshop, in Rosendale, NY. A co-founder of Women Make Movies in 1969, she was a teacher in its community based workshop and originated its distribution service at the incorporation of the organization in 1972. Ariel has directed / produced & mentored hundreds of films / tv shows such as CULTURAL DEMOCRACY ECOLOGY (1988-92); FROM THE INTERIOR, COLONIZED (1992 with Vandana Shiva); and WOMEN ART REVOLUTION (2010) Lynn Hershman’s documentary on the feminist art movement. At present she is researching contemporary US girls and young women’s film teaching programs for a book, re-investigating parallel projects in the late 1960s and early 1970s and crafting theory and policy based on these combined experiences. Read more about International Videoletters in Dougherty’s article: https://www.scribd.com/document/368200286/International-VIDEOLETTERS-UPDATE-Oct-2016

Lexington Davis is a writer, curator, and art historian currently completing a PhD at University of St Andrews, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. Her dissertation, titled ‘Women’s Work: 1970s Feminist Art and Domestic Labour Politics’, is an intersectional, transnational study exploring how feminist artists complicated the politics of social reproduction, care, and labour through their work. In addition to academic work, she has held curatorial and research positions at the New Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Recently, she has curated exhibitions at apexart, New York; Neue Galerie, Innsbruck; Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest; and the Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki. She has taught at Leiden University and has written for publications including Feminist Media Histories, Flash Art, Espace art actuel,and Metropolis M. Her work has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship; a Schlesinger Library Dissertation Grant, Harvard Radcliffe Institute; the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds; the Association for Art History, UK; the Scottish Society for Art History; and the Netherlands Institute in Athens. Her article, “Creating a ‘Feminist Nation:’ The International Videoletters Network, 1975–77,” was published in Feminist Media Histories in 2023.



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