Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited

By Deirdre Boyle | Go to book overview
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Subject to Change

The summer of 1969 was extraordinarily eventful. In July American astronauts were the first men to walk on the moon, and video pioneers watched the fuzzy black-and-white video of the lunar landing, finding exciting confirmation of Buckminster Fuller's theory that we are evolving through our technology. Michael Shamberg, who watched the broadcasts along with millions around the globe, experienced a great epiphany.

Our mind is doing things that our body can't accommodate, so it's coming out in the form of the technology. So we are in fact evolving through the technology. And we've got to come to some relationship with the technology. The relationship isn't to embrace it wholeheartedly nor to reject it, but to understand it, to understand that . . . technology is ecology; finding that overspecialization of technology leads you to death. What can you do with an electric can opener? On the other hand, video is generalized technology and has a high variety of uses. 1

In August, underground videomakers got a chance to show what some of those other uses were at a music festival held in a small town in upstate New York. Woodstock was about to change the future of the video underground and the fortunes of its innovators.

David Cort had been drawn into the political events of 1969 by Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, an old college friend from Brandeis University. With his Boston broad A's, wicked sense of humor, Madison Avenue glibness, and extravagant mop of dark curls, Hoffman was one of the video underground's most mediagenic stars, and Cort was often on hand with his portapak, covering a Hoffman speech in New Haven or an SDS rally at City College. Cort covered both anti- and pro-war demonstrations--events at Columbia and New York Universities as well as the Construction Workers' Loyalty Day parade. So when the summer of 1969 came, he followed the action and headed to Woodstock.


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