The Raindance Foundation, Media Ecology and Video Art.
In the last October of the 1960s, a group of New York City-based artists came together and set up The Raindance Foundation, a media think-tank which sought to use video as a form of cultural communication out of mainstream information structures.
Influenced by media thinkers Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, the collective quickly established itself as a leading voice in the radical media criticism landscape. They were ahead of the game in addressing media ecology: a reality in which nature, technology and information stand in constant relation to one another. Besides video work, The Raindance Foundation also produced a periodical called Radical Software, the only regular publication about video in the early 1970s.
This summer, The Hague gallery West presents an extensive overview of both their video and written work. The exhibition was first produced by ZKM Center for Art and Media, but fits seamlessly in West’s programming.
Showing over seven hours of video material, it’s a near impossibility to see all that is presented. Still, it’s remarkably easy to come away from it all having received a wholesome impression, and perhaps a desire to return and see more…
The first half of the exhibition consists of black and white scenes of New York in the late 1960s. Buildings, people, a Gregory Bateson lecture, a protest, more buildings, more people, a Richard Serra sculpture, a naked Woodstock scene. The first films one encounters display what seems to merely be the product of an incessant need to document.
Whether you commit to seeing a few videos in their entirety or just catch a couple of segments of each, the shots are thoroughly distinct and engaging. They are everyday yet comical, not romanticised but often romantic, an idiosyncratic look at series of strangely familiar scenes.
Some of the works actively put the spectator on screen. While the works were made when video equipment became affordable for the first time and many people had probably never seen a moving image of themselves, the simple tricks in the works have an undeniably lasting potency today. For an age in which advanced Instagram and Snapchat filters are a daily indulgence for many, this is an impressive feat.
Finally, the viewer is faced with short snippets from Night Live TV, a one-hour slot on cable television given to the Raindance Foundation 60 times between 1982-1993. One of the reels shows selections by founding member Ira Schneider, another has been done by ZKM. The fragments are odd and out of context and much stranger than the first half, often heavily edited. They are in many ways also more interesting: strikingly unfragmented, a real feast for the eye, a happy visual experience that seamlessly moves from scene to scene.
This exhibition is West’s final one at their Lange Voorhout location. It’s a remarkable exhibition in a remarkable space, don’t miss out. Malou den Dekker 2nd July 2018
The exhibition continues until September 9th.