Guerrilla Television Symposium panel 3: Women’s Video Cultures

Compared to film, video was cheap and easy to learn. And unlike the film and TV industries, there was no entrenched hierarchy that kept out women, queer people, and BIPOC. Video quickly became central to a growing network of feminist videomakers and collectives dedicated to encouraging, sharing, and celebrating the work of women. This panel focuses on women video producers and the culture of festivals, videoletters, and video exchanges that arose during the 1970s. Panelists: Eleanor Boyer, videomaker and director, Loop YWCA’s Women’s Video Project, Chicago; Deirdre Boyle, professor emerita of media studies at The New School and author of Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited; Tracy Fitz and Barbara Jabaily, videomakers, founding members of L.O.V.E. (Lesbians Organized for Video Experience), now known as LoveTapesCollective; Julie Gustafson, videomaker and co-director of Global Village; Susan Milano, videomaker and co-founder of the Women’s Video Festival.

00:01Copy video clip URL Media Burn’s Adam Hart begins the panel, reading an introduction written by Helena Shaskevich – the scheduled moderator of the panel, who could not attend the symposium: “‘Television,’ declared Susan Milano in the 1976 exhibition catalogue for the Women’s Video Festival, ‘was a veritable no-woman’s land.’ Echoing former FCC chairman Newton Minow’s infamous 1961 speech in which he dubbed television programming a ‘vast wasteland,’ Milano’s punchy comment shrewdly summarized the inequitable gender politics of television in the 1970s. She noted that despite increasing access to the job market, the number of women working in television remained devastatingly low. That is, of course, unless a woman was ‘young, beautiful and photogenic, in which case she could try to get a position in front of the cameras [. . .]’ Representation, Milano warned, did not equal equity. Instead, she argued that the issue of representation was intimately bound to the economic question of production, and with television in mind, the question of distribution. It was only by seizing the means of production, by taking the camera into their own hands, and by sharing their videos, could women truly transform television, and consequently, gender politics in the United States. The histories of portable video and feminism are inextricably linked in the United States. In 1968, the same year Sony was gearing up for a marketing blitz to introduce US consumers to the CV-2400 Portapak, women were congregating in Atlantic City for the Miss America Pageant protests, where they threw the detritus of patriarchy into the infamous ‘Freedom Trash Can.’ For many of these activists, video was a medium closely allied with the notion of freedom. ‘Because of its newness, half-inch had no rules to break,’ Milano enthusiastically declares, “no glamour jobs, no unions to join, no enclaves to threaten [. .  .].’ Video was not only portable and accessible, but also unburdened by the historic weight of male mastery associated with more traditional mediums on the one hand, and the infrastructural inequalities of established television networks on the other. Its democratizing possibilities made it an ideal medium for women. Realizing that self-representation was a political act with liberatory potential, women took up the camera enthusiastically and frequently, recording their daily lives with a sense of profound urgency….”

4:22Copy video clip URL Deirdre Boyle introduces the panel, discussing the opportunity for women offered by video, as opposed to the hostility that women typically found in the world of film. Boyle discusses the revelations she experienced seeing early women’s video, mentioning the documentary Transsexuals (co-directed by Susan Milano) and the videos of Julie Gustafson, including The Politics of Intimacy and Giving Birth: Four Portraits. “Women tend to go deep, and to think about the issues that are most penetrating, the most essential, the most lingering.”

10:12Copy video clip URL Susan Milano discusses the production of Transsexuals through a workshop at Global Village. 

13:31Copy video clip URL Julie Gustafson talks about arriving at Global Village via a class taught through the New School. The origins of Politics of Intimacy. The importance of screenings and environments that fostered conversation. The importance of the TV Lab for providing technical support. Getting her productions broadcast on WNET. Subsequent documentaries, including Casting the First Stone and Desire

19:55Copy video clip URL Eleanor Boyer discusses coming to video as a member of the organization Chicago Women Against Rape. The Chicago Loop YWCA getting a video camera used for educational purposes. Using that equipment to make other tapes. The importance of community and collaboration in Chicago. Producing Slices of Chicago. The need for editing equipment. The importance of the Chicago Editing Center. 

33:12Copy video clip URL Barbara Jabaily discusses her involvement with the L.O.V.E. group (Lesbians Organized for Video Experience). The group making video for lesbians and queer people because there was no representation of LGBTQ+ people on television. Combining political activism and protest with video production. Receiving a lifetime achievement award.

35:29Copy video clip URL Tracy Fitz on the other members of the L.O.V.E. group, including Betty Brown, Doris Lunden, and Delia Davis. The work of the group at protests and taping artists and activists. Preserving and sharing the group’s archives through the LoveTapesCollective Vimeo Page. The lack of political change since the 1970s. The widespread problem of bullying. 

46:32Copy video clip URL Milano discusses the start of the Women’s Video Festival, at the suggestion of Steina Vasulka. The first festival taking place at The Kitchen, with a policy of screening all submitted work. Getting involved with the Women’s Interart Center for subsequent festivals. The importance of the Women’s Interart Center for women’s artmaking in the 1970s. Being influenced by and working with Shirley Clarke and the TeePee Video Space Troupe. 

58:57Copy video clip URL Ariel Dougherty talks about the still-present misogyny of mainstream art and media institutions. 

60:27Copy video clip URL Jabaily talks about the male-dominated environment of television in the 1990s. Fitz remembers a study about the value of companies. The need to value women’s work and women’s artwork. 

63:57Copy video clip URL Fitz discusses archiving, preserving, and licensing the L.O.V.E. group’s tapes. Boyle talks about Congressional hearings on archiving videotape. The difficulties and expenses of archiving and preserving tape and the need for sharing and distributing the content. Boyle calls for more rigorous standards of academic scholarship about women’s video history. The need to preserve not just the videos themselves, but the contexts that produced and received them. The importance of Mary Lucier to the history of video art. 



You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


Copyright © 2024 Media Burn Archive.
Media Burn Archive | 935 W Chestnut St Suite 405 Chicago IL 60642
(312) 964-5020 | [email protected]