7/16/20: Virtual Talks with Video Activists: Eleanor Boyer

Eleanor Boyer is a Chicago-based videomaker who has worked in video activism since the 1970s, beginning with her work on the Women's Video Project at the Loop YWCA.

Watch the screening and discussion with Eleanor Boyer.

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Video continues to be a force in generating social change and exposing the realities of life in America. That’s why Media Burn Archive is presenting a series of screenings and discussions with pioneers of video art and activism. This edition features Eleanor Boyer, a Chicago-based videomaker who has worked in video activism since the 1970s.

Eleanor Boyer came to video in the mid-1970’s, when portable video was first available to individuals outside of the broadcast profession. In 1974 she and staff at Chicago’s Loop Center YWCA formed a Women’s Video Project to train women in video skills. As a non-hierarchical collective they produced videos on women’s issues.

From 1979 to 1987, as an independent video producer, she worked with Chicago-area organizations, including the YWCA, Latin Women in Action, and the Midwest Women’s Center, to make educational and documentary videotapes on violence against women, women’s health, women in non-traditional jobs, women in sports and women in the arts.

Eleanor Boyer works with fellow videomaker Karen Peugh.
Eleanor Boyer, left, with videomaker Karen Peugh.

Boyer sought to promote cultural and institutional change by educating about the issues affecting women’s place in society. The focus of her work was to show the realities of women’s lives and to provide realistic alternatives to female stereotypes that dominated the mass media. Her videos have been used for educational and informational purposes in social service agencies, schools, and universities. They appeared in film festivals, art galleries, and in broadcasts on local TV stations and cable TV. Her work has been screened at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art, and included in major exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Boyer was among the initial members of the Chicago Videomakers Coalition, a grass-roots organization formed in 1977 to increase the level of cooperation and technical standards among independent video makers through the sharing of knowledge and production experience. That organization’s role was largely superseded with the establishment of the Chicago Editing Center in 1978, later named the Center for New Television. CNTV became a non-profit regional arts center. It provided video makers with access, at a reasonable cost, to high-quality video production equipment, technical workshops and exhibition space. Boyer was an active member and served for eight years on the CNTV Board of Directors.

In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s Boyer gave video production workshops at the YWCA, at the Center for New Television, and taught at Columbia College Chicago. She curated or co-curated several shows of independent video for TV broadcast or gallery exhibition. In 1983 she was co-organizer of a local cable arts conference and moderator at a regional conference of the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers.

From 1987 to 2003 Boyer collaborated with her husband, Wayne Boyer. They maintained a film, animation and video production studio in Evanston, Illinois. The majority of their clients were cultural and non-profit organizations including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Northwestern University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others. Their productions have been widely distributed and recognized with awards.

Boyer prepared a 30-minute compilation of her works for this event. Abridged versions of three videos will be shown. The first two, “Getting Strong: Self Defense for Women” completed in 1976,  and “Rugby Women,” made in 1978,  were shot on ½” black & white video tape with first generation portable video equipment, the Sony Portapak. The third video, “Festival de Mujeres,” was shot in 1979 on 3/4″videotape using an early generation color 3/4″ video cassette recorder and camera. It was made by Eleanor together with videomaker Karen Peugh.



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