WGBH Openvault

Rockefeller Artists in Television; Video Commune (Beatles From Beginning To End)

Part of New Television Workshop.

08/01/1970

Dubbed for use by Stephen Vitiello. Reel Two


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Series
Rockefeller Artists in Television
Program
Video Commune (Beatles From Beginning To End)
Series Description

The "Rockefeller Artists-in-Television" residency program was created to support artists working in television. It was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation from 1967 through 1970. It was replaced by "The WGBH Project for New Television." While some of the Rockefeller artists, such as Nam June Paik, were already very committed to the medium of video, others were coming to the medium for the first time or from a film background. Paik developed the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer, with Shuya Abe, while working as a Rockefeller artist (though additional funding for the synthesizer's construction was provided by WGBH). The device was used to generate special effects and color enhancements. Artists supported by this program included: Mary Feldhaus-Weber, Marie Cosindas, Lee Lockwood, Stan Vanderbeek, David Wheeler, Nam June Paik, Zone, Newton Wayland, Shoshana Dubiner, Theo Wolfe, Dick Bartlett, Tim Mayer, The Propositions, Tim Hunter, David Silver, and Jean Shepherd. Many of these artists worked collaboratively to create one or more works. Series release date: 1967

Program Description

In Nam June Paik’s historic “Video Commune” selections from The Beatles’ recorded music are accompanied by imagery enhanced by the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer. At various intervals throughout the show, which is approximately four hours in length, a narrator explains the nature of this experimental broadcast. “This is participation TV,” he says, urging the audience to play with the dials of their television set, adjusting brightness and color. Viewers limited to black-and-white sets are encouraged to “distort [their] picture with a strong magnet.” All audiences are pushed to “do your own thing and treat it like electronic wallpaper.”

Occasionally, The Beatles’ music and the accompanying imagery are interrupted by segments of a Japanese television program from Osaka, showing performances of hit songs from Japan. This juxtaposition of Eastern and Western popular culture icons illustrates Paik’s theory of a “Global TV.” In part, the title of the work, “Video Commune,” refers to this union. The imagery from the WGBH studio, where the videosynthesizer work took place, shows contributing artists Russell Connor, David Silver, and Anne Tolbert, as well as WGBH personalities John Folsom, Chas Norton, Jock Gill, Nat Johnson, Fred Barzyk, Olivia Tappan, and others. Images shot live in the studio are distorted, saturated with color, and overlaid with designs and patterns. Some previously recorded footage is played back and manipulated in a similar manner. Highlights from the three reels that comprise the show are as follow:

Reel 1: The work is introduced for the first time. Abstract images alternate with scenes from Japanese television. Highlights include a performance by the “seven-year-old wonder” Osamu Minagawa and a commercial featuring a lineup of “mod squad” style gun molls. Scenes of individuals hamming it up for the camera culminate with a brief image of Nam June Paik directing activities.

Reel 2: A still photo of George Harrison is superimposed on the faces of studio participants and slowly rotates, creating a mandala effect. Lit candles and an inhabited goldfish bowl are filmed. Fred Barzyk and Olivia Tappan appear, in what may be recycled footage from the “9/23” experiment. Footage of a newscaster is included.

Reel 3: Scenes from trailers for The Beatles’ films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” appear. Footage of Charlotte Moorman performing is recycled. Moorman alternates between playing the cello and playing a man’s back (Paik’s?) as if it were a cello.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type

Video

Subjects
Music
Japan
Beatles
Television
Topics
Film and Television
Creators
Paik, Nam June, 1932-2006 ()
Barzyk, Fred (Producer)
Contributors
Minagawa, Osamu ()
Tolbert, Anne ()
Tappan, Olivia ()
Johnson, Nat ()
Folsom, John ()
Silver, David ()
Norton, Chas ()
Connor, Russell ()
Gill, Jock ()
Citation
Chicago: “Rockefeller Artists in Television; Video Commune (Beatles From Beginning To End),” 08/01/1970, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 7, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_254C75431776412FB8C48C48CA416209.
MLA: “Rockefeller Artists in Television; Video Commune (Beatles From Beginning To End).” 08/01/1970. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 7, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_254C75431776412FB8C48C48CA416209>.
APA: Rockefeller Artists in Television; Video Commune (Beatles From Beginning To End). Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_254C75431776412FB8C48C48CA416209
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