Interview with John Reilly
By Davidson Gigliotti
Recorded: December 14, 1999
Look, I record these, John,
OK, so I'm just telling you. OK, John, I'm preparing an
e-mail right now which is going out to all the participants in
this project. You will be getting one, you're on the list. I've
sort of created a mailing list. It's not a real mailing list
in the sense that, an interactive mailing list. I'd like to do
that, it would really be good if we could have a sort of Early
Video List, you know, where people could sort of...
We could all kind of share things with each other. That would
Yeah, that would be fun, and I think that I would like
to do something like that.
If you could do that that would be actually a great step in
the right direction, 'cause I've been thinking a lot about this
too. But my list is relatively incomplete.
All right. Well, you'll be receiving an e-mail from me
which explains the project and my role in it and how it all came
about, and so on. What I'd like to do is I'd sort of like to
get back into your history before Global Village - you know,
where you came from and how you got involved in filmmaking. I
know you were a filmmaker. And basically what life was like in
New York before you did that?
OK, do you want to start in any particular place, or just
Well, I don't know, you got out of school, right. Education
is not that important, what's really important to me is well,
you know. Well...tell me a little about your education.
All right. Well I went to undergraduate work at Seton Hall
University. There was no televison or film program at the school.
They had what they called Communications, basically which translated
into radio. They had a fairly good FM radio station. And we did
programming. I created a program for them for FM about avant-garde
theater in New York. I would go into the city and do interviews
with the new emerging theater groups. Judith Malina and Julian
Beck and people like that.
That was an innovation for the station because they never
did anything like that before, but I was really interested in
visual, that was my thing and not audio. So I convinced them
to let me work in film, and, uh, in exchange for them buying
a Bolex camera, I wrote course descriptions for them to create
a new section in film that they would have. So, that was the
trade-off, and they bought the Bolex. I then took my own courses
that I created - I think I was the only student - and eventually
made a film.
It was a fiction film, an experimental film. Took place mainly
in the New York City subways, as I recall. But it....the influence
for me at that point was probably early films being shown by
Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage things, and, uh...
So you were going into New York a lot and looking at avant-garde
All the time, all the time.
Tell me about those experiences.
Early on there was a theater in the East Village that Jonas
Mekas took over and I can't remember the exact years. I'm recalling
it was mid-sixties.
Was this the New Charles?
That's right, exactly right, you're exactly right.
It was right across the street from Stanley's.
And we got to know Stanley along the way, like a lot of people,
So there's the connection for me, and that was a revelation.
Because you couldn't see this stuff anywhere. If you think back
in those days there was no place to really see this kind of film,
this alternative kind of film. You could see European film in
art houses and whatnot, but you couldn't really see the experimental
groups. So, you have that, and then eventually I showed one of
my films in the Charles and, uh...
So you must have hung out at Stanley's a bit.
Oh, yeah. You used to be there?
Oh, often, often.
When he passed away it was kind of sad, a lot of us felt badly.
I didn't even know. When did he pass away?
I dunno, after that period, not too long after, I think, my
guess is the late sixties.
He was the one who did the Dom, too. That was him.
That's right. Yeah, a he had a heart attack and just died
like suddenly. Just like that.
Jesus, I'm trying to remember if I knew that.
And his sister, or somebody, took over...something like that.
I don't think there's a bar on that corner anymore.
I don't think so. But that was a wonderful place.
It was, it was a beautiful place. I used to go there with
my friend Willy Murphy. We used to hang out there all the time,
you know, looking for trouble, etc. But, you know, it was an
artist's place kind of, and we enjoyed it very much.
So this period was very important to me, this period of development.
Before this though, what really brought me into the city on a
consistent basis - I still lived in New Jersey - what brought
me into the city on a consistent basis was going for the masters
at NYU. And I went to the Film School, there's this great teacher
they had, Haig Minujian, and Scorsese dedicated two of his films
[conversation off topic]
Also in the film school was Scorsese, Marty and I became friends,
and his influence in terms of pulling me more in the direction
of feature film and thinking about that was important. At the
time I didn't think that important, because my main work was
in documentary. But having him around and full of energy the
way he was, and is, was quite remarkable. There were a number
of others there in the Film School that were of influence to
me. So my goal at that point was working in film, right, except
that I couldn't afford it. I really...the usual dilemma of not
wanting to do commerical work and not having the money to go
out and make elaborate 16mm films. Even if you shot in black
and white, it was a lot of money in those days. It was an unrealized
frustration, an unrealized dream, a big frustration for me. And
I taught on and off, here and there, to make money, to earn money.
Where did you teach?
I taught at New York Institute of Technology, and on the island,
at Westbury, and I taught briefly at Rutgers, but not very long,
adjuncting. Full time at the New York Institute, and one year
I went out to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, one year.
It was fun, because I treated it as a kind of visiting artist
thing for me. They had a different idea of what I was going to
do there, it was a conflict, but really I saw it as a chance
to work with local artists in that area, and I had a lot of fun
and I made a film about Appalachia called Harvest of Hope.
And it was commissioned by the state, they have several programs
that they wanted to show, and I hired Scorsese to edit the film.
He and I worked together for four months on the film.
Beautiful! Is that film around, I mean, can you see it?
Yeah, I have a copy of it. I think at one point I had given
it to the Museum of Modern Art after they got interested in my
video. I don't know what they did with the print, but I gave
them a copy.
Do you have it on video?
Not at the moment, I only have 16mm.
Should put it on video so other people can look at it.
I know it's a big deal projecting 16mm film, it's not such an
easy thing, but, you know, if you have them on VHS ...
So that brings us up to '68. I'm back in the city, I'm living
in the city.
Where are you living?
At this point I'm living on Spring Street.
Where? What number?
192 Spring. It's about a block in from 6th Avenue.
South side of the street?
Yes, South side of the street, correct. It's a small apartment,
it's not a loft, it's a small apartment, inexpensive, but it
gave me freedom to pursue other things by not having a big rent,
and that was through '68. Then I got a loft down further on Spring
Street, 118 Spring, down near Mercer.
Did you get to meet Rudi Stern by this time?
No, I didn't get to meet Rudi until '69. At this point I was
working with Ira. And Ira and I had formed some company, briefly
involving Frank Gillette, might have been called Information
Structures. I was trying to think of the name....
How did you meet Ira?
I met Ira, let's see now, how did I meet Ira?
You know, I've got a business card somewhere with you two
guys name on it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we started this company together. You know,
it's funny. Through some friends who told me about Ira and introduced
us and brought us together, I don't remember who it was, some
artist as far as I can recall it. And they said Ira was working
with this portable video and had been out in Ohio, I think Frank
was with him.
Antioch, right. And they had these incredible tapes, and it
blew my mind. Here I am unable to make 16mm film because I can't
afford it, and here they come along with this beautiful process.
I always felt that the texture of those early black and white
video cameras had a special quality to them, it may be my mind
playing tricks on me.
No, they did have a special quality, and I've written about
it. Hold on a second, let me see if I can....yeah. basically
what I said here was "There is still a nostalgia among video
artists who practiced in the sixties and early seventies for
the old course-grained black and white images of early video.
Part of the power that they transmitted was the power of image
and sound so stripped of detail that only the most direct messages
That's quite good, actually. I think you're right.
Yeah, they were powerful. It was a powerful...not just
because it was new to us, but it was powerful in its own right,
Image-wise it was powerful, aside from the process which was
powerful. The images were powerful. And I was struck by the simple
things that Frank and Ira had done. All three of us, for a while,
formed a company. I even believe, for a short time, Paul Ryan
was involved in that company. Frank created quite a remarkable
piece for the Howard Wise Gallery, and it might have been called
Yeah, Wipe Cycle, Frank and Ira did that.
Frank and Ira, and that was an important piece for a lot of
us because it really showed the live camera, the interaction,
the bank of monitors...
Oh, it was a remarkable work, I saw it.
A remarkable work, exactly, and that influenced the first
presentations we made at Global Village. When we actually started
to construct Global Village, at some point in '69 Rudi entered
Tell me about Global Village. Was it a 501(c)3?
Yes it is, it still exists.
When did you found it?
In '69, Fall of '69. I think it was dated September, I went
back and looked at some articles about it.
Did you, uh, that was the loft on the corner of Broome
The second floor. Did you have to renovate that loft? Did
you just walk in and..
We originally worked...we tried to raise some money to get
investors involved. Rudi had a lot of experience creating models
and things so he created a model of the loft which showed it
as a theater. And we used the model to raise... we didn't raise
much, but we raised enough to begin.
This is with Rudi and Ira and....
Ira was...yeah, in the first several months Ira was involved,
and then Ira dropped out. We had a parting of the ways. I'd rather
not go into all of that. He went his seperate way and Rudi and
I went our seperate ways, and somewhere in that period we launched
Global Village. I recall September of '69. That's my recollection.
What was your aspiration for Global Village?
To experiment with video was my aspiration and to have a space
that we could present the video in various forms. And not have
to worry about censorchip, not have to worry about rejection
by networks, not have to worry about...cable didn't exist. There
was no such thing as access or anything else, that came later.
We predated that. So the really - if you think about it where
would you show anything? You could show it in galleries, right,
but even then there weren't very many who were into it. You could
probably count them on one hand. If even that. They were't there.
So we created a space, part gallery, part theater. We originally
sat on the floor, there were no chairs, we put foam down on the
floor. Mekas reviewed it that first year and liked the show but
complained about having to sit on the floor. He said he had long
country legs, or something like that.
He didn't want to sit on the floor. And so we did a mixture
of material and what had influenced me was Gillette's - I keep
on saying Frank, I know Ira was involved in it too, but the theory
was more Frank's of the Wipe Cycle and the multiple monitors,
the bank of monitors - so we created 12 monitors and we had three
channels of video and three channels of audio that we fed into
it. And one innovation we made was it could be performed. You
could actually perform a piece and do it live with a switcher.
The switcher was built by C. T. Lui.
Right? We all turned to Lui at that point.
Oh, sure. Was Lui involved with you guys at all?
No, no, other than support. He came to the show, enjoyed himself.
But no, he had no direct involvement, but through Lui you met
everyone else, because everyone was hanging out down there, and
stopping in and.....
Sure, Lui was kind of a catalyst.
He was kind of a catalyst and he played an important role.
We needed a C.T Lui at that point.
I'm sorry, go ahead.
I was saying we needed somebody like Lui, even though he was
himself not, quote, an artist, he played a very important role.
Yeah, I bought my first deck from Lui.
Exactly, and Ira bought the first things we had, and on and
on. We dealt with him regularly after that. He was a very important
catalyst. He designed the switcher for us. And it was, I don't
know, a little box with buttons on it, very mechanical buttons,
by the way, nothing electronic. And each button would give you
a different pattern of the 12, of the three channels, three audio,
blah, blah, blah. So we designed programs for it, and that was
the earliest Global Village formal presentation was this performance
piece that was made up of a lot of things - tapes we had shot,
short little documentary pieces, the Woodstock material that
Ira and I split up.
Did you go to Woodstock?
He was there, I was in Europe, I was doing something else
What were you doing in Europe.
I was trying to show my earliest video in London, with mixed
success. I mean people were like looking in disbelief, because
there was no European movement. Anyway, I went over there. I
was a little ahead of myself, right. A couple of years later
it was very successful. Meanwhile Woodstock took place and we
had material from it and we had that in the program. I shot erotic
material, we had that in the program, we had Abbie Hoffman, the
trial might have just started, the Chicago Seven - remember all
I had that in the program. Rudi did tapes about witches, that
was in the program. I mean it was like transexuals, we had an
unbelievable mix of all the stuff that couldn't go anywhere else.
The Woodstock, of course, could. But nobody was seeing it because
the film wasn't out yet. So we had the only video. So there was
all kinds of material and it was mixed together in a collage.
That was the interesting part.
Had you run across people like Howard Gutstadt and David
We had met them almost concurrent with that period. Whether
they came by...I think they actually did at some point. I know
Paik would come occasionally and bring somebody with him to see
the mix. Woody and Steina Vasulka were there.
Right. They were around those years, very early.
Very early, very early. In fact we met Woody when we were
doing - after the Wipe Cycle - the company was called,
I believe, Information Structures, and we were going to do large
installations and it was Ira and I and Frank and probably Paul
Something about the American Can Company or something?
Exactly. And somewhere in that mix, not working directly for
them, but somewhere in that mix was Woody Vasulka working for
a guy who did slide presentations. Woody was his master builder
of these devices.
Yeah, he was a very good engineer. What was your involvement
withy the American Can Company project?
That was mainly Frank Gillette. We were involved in...Information
Structures was the company that designed it, which we were all
involved in. But the real work on it was mainly Frank, Frank
was the one... Frank was not the easiest person. I don't know
how well you know him.
Oh, I know him well.
He could be difficult. He could be challenging. He was wonderful
- he was a genius. But they sent him off to meet the American
Can people and they didn't appreciate Frank.
Perhaps that was not the right guy to send, no.
No, no, no, they were baffled by Frank. Amazingly the thing
got built, but somehow we got ripped off. We got money for it,
but they walked off with this matrix of about 50 monitors. So
it didn't quite...it wasn't what we envisioned. Somehow Woody
was involved, somehow this other company was involved that made
slide shows, and through that we started a friendship with Woody
that's lasted till today. Woody and Steina. And Woody would come
to the early Global Village shows, and somewhere in that period
he started the Kitchen, a little bit later. In the old hotel
So the early Global Village was place for mainly Rudi and
I. We did have other people come in eventually.
A lot of people went through there.
A lot of people went through there and worked on things with
Tell me about some of them. Andy Mann went through there.
Andy Mann who had some contribution to the early construction
of that switcher and matrix. He worked on it. If anyone who deserves
credit other than Lui or us thinking about it was Frank Gillette
for inspiring it. It was a performance thing.
Did Andy come in, like, and work on stuff with you guys
more or less regularly?
Oh, Andy was there for almost a year, or more, a year and
a half. He was our right-hand person.
Starting when, about sixty...
You know, dates are a little fuzzy for me. I'm gonna say '69,
late '69, in that period.
Yeah, I remember Edin, I used to know him pretty well.
Edin was married in our loft space to Ethel Velez, and we
actually had him staying there for a while when he lost his apartment.
It was a funny thing, a funny period. It was big space, it was
125 feet long, 30 or 35 wide, and we had a lot of space to do
things in there. Later on, tons of people went through.
Well, you know something, this is off topic, but one of
the things that I'm really interested in - I have the idea that
probably several hundred people went through Global Village in
terms of its classes and workshops and so forth, and I imagine
that if you at the credits of a lot televison programs today
you probably find many of them.
A lot of people who went into the industry, or who went
into video in some way or another.
You'll find some people who were already established. For
instance, Larry Rivers came to us at one point and said, "I
want to take a class in video". No, he didn't say class,
he said, "I want you to teach me video, I just bought this
camera, and I want to start using it." So Rudi and I actually
set him down in a class, but that didn't work, so then we did
it privately. And subsequent to that he sent a wife, and he sent
two girlfriends over the course of several years. So one day
we'd get a call and it would be so-and-so coming by and she'd
work with us for a while. And Larry, by the way, has a lot of
tapes. I just saw him recently out here, and I told him I'd help
him put together some of the tapes. So there were people like
that that came by, Rauschenberg got interested in what we were
doing, eventually did video himself, but came by. People from
the Hollywood community - Ah, I'm not very good with names -
several prominent actors spent time there. They were involved
with some underground film projects and they came by. Of course
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and all of the people involved
with them came by the space. They were there quite frequently.
They were in the show, they were permanently part of the show.
Permanently part of the show. What do you mean exactly?
We had a performance piece that was repeated, and it ran for
almost two years.
And they would come by live?
They would come by and be there. Yeah. And sometimes get up
and say something, sometimes do nothing, sometimes bring people.
Sometimes we'd all go into front office and we'd smoke something,
you know, on and on and on.
Yeah, all that.
Yeah, it was like a gathering on the weekend. And the other
connection that we had - these were groups, I'm not talking about
only individuals - the other connection we had through Rudi was
to Tim Leary, and the whole crowd from Millbrook. So they would
come, and Leary would come.
Rudi was tied in with them a little bit.
Tied in with them, exactly. Rudi did slide show presentations
as part of it.
Right, over on Second Avenue.
That's right. So through all of that was his friendship with
Leary. And then the Warhol group came in. Now Andy Warhol, to
my knowledge, never showed up at the space, but if you name people
from his group...
Paul Morrisey was there, who I developed a friendship with
later. Several of the actresses would come by, one or two of
the tranvestites, I mean, you name them. One called Holly Woodlawn...
Yeah, Holly Woodlawn, all that.
They would come by. And it had this funny quality that we
didn't intend, by the way, that wasn't necessarily why we were
Yeah but you were accessible, you were there, and you were
doing this stuff so, you know...
Right. And it was clearly more on the experimental end. Something
else developed at that point which we were compared to once in
a while, which was totally wrong. It was called Channel One.
Yeah, Ken Shapiro
Right, I remember Ken Shapiro. I went to one of those Channel
Well that wasn't us. And he was not involved in kind of this
No, it was a different thing. He was working with Chevy
Exactly, he was working with Chevy Chase, but in the reviews
they would sometimes lump it all together.
And of course you were the only people in town doing that
at that time because the Videofreex were all involved in that
[Off topic conversation ensues.]
What we were doing to certain parts of the establishment was
a threat. It wasn't to be controlled, they way they had a great
control of the networks. And this particular process you couldn't
put back in the bottle any longer.
No, no, it was scary to them, I agree.
It was scary, and people like Don West who were trying to
make a bridge with you guys, eventually his bosses realized,
"Hey, you can't control this situation - its not going to
be neat the way you think it's going to be."
No, no, I know. They were basically mortified to be getting
involved with it and that's sort of how that went. But, you know,
what were you reading at that time?
Well, I think one of the things that influenced us, obviously
from a choice of the name was McLuhan. Paul Ryan, I guess, among
others, for me it was Paul, brought McLuhan to New York.
Well, what happened was that McLuhan had a year at Fordham,
Culkin,it was Culkin.
Yeah, Father John Culkin. Did you know him?
Yes, I did.
Tell me about him.
He was an extraordinary man, he was also one of the most intelligent
people I've ever met in my life. And very much believed in, somehow,
Catholicism and you could mix it all toegther and you have this
wonderful excitement of people like McLuhan. So he brought McLuhan
in to Fordham and they had that year. I think it was a full year.
And a number of us met McLuhan while he was there.
McLuhan had a brain tumor and had to be operated on, it
was not a great year for McLuhan. He was in the hospital recovering
from brain surgery much of that time.
I recall, he was not in great shape. But there were several
meetings that were set up that...
Paul was his graduate assistant.
Anyway that was a big influence, and later on we wound up...
the guy he did several books with, I can't remember his name,
but the visual books, remember the ones...
Fiore, I think that was his name.
Fiore. We worked with him on another project, Rudi and I.
And got to know him. So that was a very seminal and influential
period for us, this whole business of McLuhan. And when we used
the name, we called him. He was back in Toronto, I think and
we called him and asked his permission. His daughters came by
to look at the program, that's what he told me. "They are
going to come and look at it. I can't get down there at this
point. If they think it's OK you can do whatever you want with
the name." And they came by, and fortunately they liked
what we were doing at Global Village and they told him that and
he called back and said, "That's great, go ahead and have
fun with the name." But of course he didn't own the name,
we just did it as a courtesy, right. The book was called, right
- The World is a Global Village.
I'm jumping around a lot.
I'm sort of looking back at Culkin again and your relationship
with him and how you knew him and what kind of person he was.
I was always very impressed by Culkin. Remember of course,
at one point he was active as a Catholic priest, and that was
this period. Later on, I believe, he left the priesthood and
I knew him in another capacity because he worked to some degree
with the New School. And in 1971 we started our long relationship
with the New School.
Tell me about that. How did that come about?
It came about through some friends of ours who were filmmakers
who had been teaching courses the New School. And they brought
us over there to introduce us to the people who ran the program
at the New School, and the key person to giving approval for
what we were doing was the Dean. And the Dean's name was Allen
Austel was one of these unsung heroes in this whole thing,
who was wide open to experimentation with courses, ideas, people
at the New School and would sanction things. And then if it worked,
he would support it. And so he gave his blessing, so we got the
thing rolling in the beginning, and that's what it was. Now we
had a wonderful relationship with him because we operated out
of our loft on Broome Street. We didn't need his space, and more
interestingly they didn't have a space, which was actually perfect
for us, because had they had a space we would have been more
under their control. The point is we didn't want to be under
their control, we wanted a lot of freedom. You know, we wanted
to be able to do the transexual tapes, we wanted to be able to
do...we did one called "Feedback", a study in feedback
which involved a class and which resulted in a huge lawsuit.
Yeah, one of the class member's husbands sued us for a million
For destroying his marriage.
In what way did that happen?
Well, his claim was that this tape that I had put together
of the class taping themselves and then playing the tapes back
to members of their family and then building on that, a simple
process of using the video for what it could do - you know, it
was one of the ways we worked with it, we all did these things
- he claimed it introduced radical ideas to his wife through
this process and caused his marriage to disintegrate.
Maybe it did.
Maybe it did, maybe it did, and, uh, he sued us for a million
dollars. And, of course, the New School at that point had a fit,
and not knowing quite what to do. So they called me in and I
met with a bunch of lawyers and they said, "You have to
think about the way we can defend this. This guy's serious."
So I said all right, I'm going back to look at all the tapes.
So I went back and looked through the boxes of tapes and I found
much more damaging material in the boxes than we ever used in
the final project, mainly with him making outrageous statements
about how he was controlling things, how this, how that, and
how his home was a castle and how he was going to throw everybody
out. I mean, control his wife and his children, on and on - I
took it all out.
So the material in the box, which I had taken out to try to
be fair to him, before we knew about any lawsuit, was far more
damaging. And so that was taken in and shown to the judge. And
the judge said, "You were far worse than anything these
people put in this tape. Case dismissed." and threw it out.
Wow, that's good.
But anyway the relationship with the New School went through
all of this stuff. And another person who was key at the New
School was Mike Engel, of the Engel Hart industrial family. And
Mike was a person who eventually, when he came into some of his
inheritance, gave money, not to us but to the New School and
helped build part of their facilities. But he was also instrumental
in the beginning in allowing us to exist and experiment.
I always enjoyed teaching, it's always been a part of my life.
Yes, I know, I understand that. I think of Global Village
as a teaching facility.
A larger part of it was actually.
What year did you become involved with the New School?
I think it was also '71. The earliest catalog I can find was
1971. It might have been '70, but the earliest I can come up
with is 1971. And we offered probably two courses in video. And
eventually at its peak it was about twelve courses, and about
ten people worked for me.
When was the peak of this, do you think?
Peak was probably in the early '80s. Up to about '85, I think.
Have you kept good records of all of that stuff?
I have a lot of it.
In other words, if we wanted to see just who the people
were who went through there it could be done.
It possibly could be done. I would, yeah, possibly. And also
I could call people and try refresh their memory, if they could
remember people as well. Literally hundreds, you're right.
I think so. I think it was hundreds of people who went
through that place. And I know that I lectured there once or
twice, you know, and I remember it was a room full of people,
and, you know John Trayna, I guess was involved.
John Trayna was involved. Shirdar Bapat was involved with
us first, and then he went with Woody and Steina, and somewhere
else, and somewhere else.
He wound up working with Nam June a bit. He was good friends
with Al Robbins.
Right. So we had the thing of... because we were open to the
public, a lot of them came to us first, and then would go to
You had a lot of walk-in.
Yeah, a lot. Exactly. Wheras in the beginning you guys had
this big project, but it was closed in, because...
Yeah, we didn't start having...we started doing these Friday
night showings, video theater kind of stuff, but that wasn't
until the new year of 1970. Jan one, 1970 was when we finally
got out of that CBS project.
Now I remember, though, attending at least one evening while
the project was still going on.
Yeah, that was the big event when all the guys from CBS
came. Mike Dann was there, and Fred Silverman...
Didn't you have a performance of rock or something?
Yeah, yeah, Buzzy Linhart!
Buzzy Linhart, OK. Obviously you remember better than I do.
No, everybody was there. Jud Yalkut was there, Beryl and
Ira were there, and there was a big room full of people, the
whole video community of New York City, basically was sitting
in that room. Not only that but Fred Silverman was there, Mike
Dann was there, I think maybe even Fred Friendly was there. And
I've got to say that it was...well, never mind, someday I'll...The
Adventure Which So Nearly Cost Us All Our Lives. I don't know.
I've often felt that was a true waste of energy for us in a way.
To spend that time involved with those people doing that thing,
because it distracted us I think from other stuff we should perhaps
have been doing. But that's just beside the point, in any case.
It's gone down in history, and people talk about it like it was
something -it was something. But it was, I don't know, it took
a long time to recover from.
You guys had the unique thing of having more individuals involved
in a group than any other video group, and that was an interesting
thing. You were like a traveling theater company.
Yeah, well that was, as a matter of fact, that was David's
Yeah, David came... you talked about Beck and Malina...you
didn't mention Grotowski but you may as well have, and David
kind of was coming a little bit out of something like that. And
he kind of wanted us to become something like a traveling theatrical
troupe, in a way. But he couldn't do it with those people, because
while some of them were kind of into that, some of them were
definitley not. We had to do different kinds of things at that
Did you move up to Woodstock when they finally...
Oh yes, I didn't leave them until 1974. I was with them
from '69 to '74. The last Videofreek closed the door on Maple
Tree Farm in 1978.
Oh, God, really? I didn't think it went on that long.
Yep.The last Videofreek walked out the door in 1978.
And left the lights on and the video camera rolling?
Turned the lights off, and that was it.
Oh, man, that was a very interesting, uh....
Oh, it was. It was just wonderful - for me it was wonderful,
I loved every minute of it. It was, is, something that I constantly
think back upon. It was a very wonderful, it was very enabling
for me, it enabled me to do other things later on, you know.
Didn't you guys carry on after Cort was no longer part of
Cort was part of it right up until.....
Not up until the end, though. He left before that didn't he?
No,no. Cort moved to the country. He was there all the
time I was there. He got sort of more loosely involved in it
around 1973, maybe, or '74.
I still remember something, it was just talk, that he was
no longer a key player in what was going on.
Well, he might not have been a key player, but he was certainly
there. He had a room there and was in and out of there a lot.
And he certainly was a part of it, of course. But he had his
own projects, and things he wanted to do, and so on.
What happened to David Cort?
David Cort lives in Boston.
[ off-topic conversation ensues]
Early on in this process, through Paik, we got involved in
the Avant-Garde Arts Festival...
Charlotte Moorman, but Paik made the phone call, spoke to
me or Rudi, both of us probably - we would both pick up the phone
- and said why don't you come in, and we are just doing video
the first year, and on and on, things like that. And we did,
and for like five years, every year we would do a piece, and
it would connect us again to all of these people. It was wonderful.
And I think you guys were involved...
Well, not the Videofreex so much, but me, yes.
You were involved.
I would do it myself.
You were involved, because I remember seeing you there. You
had pieces in it.
Oh, yeah, absolutely.
That wasn't a Videofreek project?
It never really was. They were not...they were always a
little bit shy of involvement in works that they felt self-consciously
art-oriented. I was not, because art was kind of the direction
I was interested in and was going in. So although they would
support me in these activities, they usually would remain behind
the scenes, so to speak. But my first one was in 1971. It was
a the old Armory.
Very important year, by the way.
Yeah, that was the year Shirley Clark had her big Ferris
John and Yoko were involved.
I believe they were. '71, that was the old Armory.
Cause during that period he gave me money to finish one of
Oh, really, so anyway, go on about the Avant-Garde Fesitivals.
Well, it was a terribly important thing, and it was really
Rudi who had been involved in the art world more than me. Remember
my background as a filmmaker.
And filmmakers and art world avant-garde art shows don't necessarily
mix. Now with Shirley Clark they did because she was an experimental
filmmaker. But there were a lot of fimmaker friends of mine who
thought I was crazy to be involved in all of this. You know -
the Scorsese group, let's say, loosely speaking - who just would
turn their nose up on it. They saw no relevance in anything to
do with this crowd. And to be drawn into it and to begin to think
textural ways and environmental ways, and all of the elements
that we did with these events was wonderful. And it really liberated
me as person. It become very important challenge every year,
and the contact all through the year, to be in touch with all
these people, was wonderful. Woody and Steina had a piece, it
was a circular...
Oh, I remember that piece well. And it was one tape and
one deck, and a circle of monitors facing inward, and they had
this image zipping around on that thing - that was smart, that
was a smart piece.
Very smart piece. It was a very exciting event. And somehow
we all mounted the shows and whatever we were doing, and somewho
the money was there, and on and on and on. It just went on for
a while, and it cemented contacts for me to a lot of these other
artists, which was very important.
All right. I want to continue on this discussion with you.
I need another time from you. What would be good?
End Part One.
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© Davidson Gigliotti, 2000CE