Alternative Information from the Underground Press to the Internet
February 24 - April 20, 1996
Counterculture: Alternative Information from the Underground Press to the Internet is a comprehensive historical exhibition that examines the role of the alternative media in fostering social, cultural, and political change in America from 1965 to the present. The independent and underground press had its flowering in the United States during the 1960s and can be seen as a component of the "alternative" space movement. As such, Counterculture explores the function of alternative media as a site, a public space within popular culture that facilitates the formation of social groups through collective cultural practices. Counterculture not only documents these counter practices but also chronicles censorship battles and other conflicts over the control of information. Over 2,000 newspapers, magazines, 'zines, and new digital publications, covering thirty years of media activism, will be included in Counterculture. These publications feature an innovative approach to graphic design, technology, journalistic prose, and cultural politics.
Counterculture begins with the rise of the underground press in the mid-1960s. Cheap offset printing allowed for the production of elaborately designed tabloid newspapers ranging from the psychedelic Oracle to the movement-oriented Black Panther Party Paper. The exhibition also traces the Yippies attempts at media intervention and the efforts of the FBI's COINTELPRO program to harass, censor, and even confiscate underground papers. Fueled by the youth movement and its outspoken opposition to authority, official information, and the War, as well as its advocacy of sex, rock, and drugs, the underground ushered in a new era in American culture.
A second generation emerged in the years 1975-85 with different issues and ideas. In the wake of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War, Americans began to accept alternative views on the environment, women's rights, and gay and lesbian issues. These new concerns are reflected in such pragmatic publications as the Whole Earth Catalog and Our Bodies, Our Selves. The punk subculture, though centered on alternative music, also had a strong influence on alternative media in the 1970s. In particular, the proliferation of self-published 'zines like Maximumrocknroll, Punk and Murder Can Be Fun satirized the first generation of underground. This period also coincided with the rise of the "alternative" art gallery which presented new art forms by artists whose work resisted the art market. As part of the "alternative" space movement, publications such as Franklin Furnace's newsletter The Flue informed and proliferated ideas about independent art practices. This section offers a surprising mix of anarchist political views, alienation, and cut-and-paste graphics.
In the past decade, battles over freedom of expression and access to new media have characterized the "culture wars," AIDS activism, and the new computer technologies of the Internet. and the World Wide Web . Counterculture looks at the relationship of artists publications like The Fox to the explosion of alternative art spaces during 1980s, the use of public posters and actions by gay and lesbian activists (such as Gran Fury and ACT UP), and challenges to definitions of information, privacy, and property in cyberspace.
Counterculture will present the legacy of cultural revolutions and perpetuate the climate which encourages citizen-based information.
Brian Wallis, the curator of the exhibition, is a cultural critic, writer, and independent curator. He is the editor of Art After Modernism and the coeditor of Constructing Masculinity. During the 1980s, he published the radical arts journal Wedge.
Counterculture: Alternative Information from the Underground Press was conceived by Exit Art / The First World. It is part of an ongoing series of projects exploring the relationship between communication, graphic design and art.
NewsreelA talk and screening with Norman Fruchter, Roz Payne and Lynn Phillips
As a part of the exhibition Counterculture: Alternative Information from the Underground Press to the Internet, Exit Art / The First World will present, in video format, selected films by the 1960s radical film collective Newsreel. The films will be presented over the course of two days: Saturday, March 16 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, March 17th at 2:00 pm.
Newsreel was founded in 1967 by filmmakers and activists who were committed to making films about anti-War, student, and cultural struggles. The self-appointed propaganda wing of the "Movement," Newsreel's mission was to work with insurgent/activist groups throughout the world "to expand the awareness of events and situations relevant to shaping the future of our movement." Utilizing montage, Newsreel often analyzed events, explicitly through narrative context and implicitly in the style and texture of the films. Whether covering the Black Panthers, students, or protests like the Chicago Democratic Convention -- Newsreel challenged the "official" story.
As part of their mission to instigate social change, members of Newsreel would present films to political organizations and community groups across the United States as a means of generating dialogues and political strategies. In homage, Exit Art / The First World is pleased to have original Newsreel members Norman Fruchter, Roz Payne and Lynn Phillips present to discuss the films.
Off The Pig (Black Panther), 1968 15 minutes
Date Saturday, March 16th
A promotional film for the Black Panther Party: the chants, training in armed self-defense, the support of the Black community, alliances with Peace and Freedom in Oakland, the Panther's Ten Point Program, confrontation with the Oakland police, and more chants. Interviews include Huey P. Newton (in jail), the Minister of Defense for the Panthers, and with Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information.
Up Against the Wall, Miss America, 1969 5 minutes
A record of Women's Liberation groups organized attempts to disrupt the 1969 Miss America pageant. Calling the Miss America contest an insidious display of "mindless womanhood," this short film documents demonstrations on the Boardwalk, outside the convention. The film also shows material that the mainstream media censored in its coverage, the footage from the protest inside the convention hall.
A key part of Exit Art/The First World's presentation is the talk on Saturday with founding Newsreel members, Norman Fruchter, currently the Director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University; Roz Payne, a teacher and writer based in Vermont; and, Lynn Phillips, now a freelance writer who writes for The Nation and Glamour Magazine. Each will address the history and philosophy of Newsreel and discuss the films selected for the screening.
Columbia Revolt, 1968, 50 minutes (edited by Lynn Phillips)
Date Sunday, March 17
In May, 1968, the students of Columbia University went on strike and seized buildings after the administration ignored their demands for an open discussion on Columbia's involvement in oppressing the citizens of Morningside Heights and Harlem and its ties to the escalating war in Vietnam. Far from meeting the students demands, the administration refused to recognize students as legitimate negotiators. The protracted argument ultimately forced the students to occupy take over and occupy university buildings. Using footage from inside the occupied buildings, the film ignited student protests and inspired student seizures on other college campuses. Although the film ends with an analytic sequence, Columbia Revolt functioned as agit prop: seen by over a million people, it remains the most requested Newsreel film. The first Newsreel "hit!"
Yippie Film, 1968 12 min
One of the more intentionally humorous films made by Newsreel, depicts the street theater and media savvy of the Yippies during the Democratic Convention in Chicago and brutal repressionary tactics orchestrated by Mayor Daley's police force. The original program notes remarked, "Like Richard "the Pig-hearted" Daley, the Yippies are not prone to sticking straight to the facts." Music includes The Fugs, Phil Ochs, Lawrence Welk, Wolf Lowenthal and Rennie Davis.
No Game, 1967 19 min
October 21, 1967, The Pentagon: The Confront the Warmakers protest organized by David Dellinger and Jerry Rubin brought out over 100,000 anti -war demonstrators. Following the Civil Rights tactic of non-violence, the protesters were not prepared for a violent confrontation with the military police and Pentagon Guards armed with tear gas and rifle butts. Shots also include Allen Ginsberg chanting to exorcise the Pentagon. No Game was one of the first films completed by Newsreel.
Summer of '68 (A Film by Norman Fruchter and John Douglas) 55 min
Newsreel's most meta-political and analytical film. The film is broken into sections focusing on an organizer central to a project. The film considers the moment -- 1968 -- and is a perspective on the strengths, limitations and possibilities for political insurgent movement in full cry. Summer of '68 is a call for political seriousness, beyond purely reactive strategies, to another level of political responsibility. Subjects include: draft resistance organizing in Boston, a Boston organizer's trip to North Vietnam, a GI Coffeehouse in Texas, NEWSREEL's appearance on Channel 13 in New York, the editorial production meeting at New York's underground paper, The RAT, and the Chicago Convention. The film portrays the movement's efficacy, integrity and humanity.
Paper Tiger and Beyond: Activist Media from Public Access to the World Wide Web
Date Thursday, April 11th, 7:00 pm
A talk and screening with: Brian Drolet, Randi Cecchine, Simin Farkhondeh, Tuli Kupferberg, Cathy Scott and, Johnny Stevens. Moderated by Dee Dee Halleck. As a part of the exhibition Counterculture: Alternative Information from the Underground Press to the Internet, Exit Art / The First World is pleased to present Paper Tiger and Beyond: Activist Media from Public Access to the World Wide Web. The evening is structured as a thoughtful discussion across generations and media with Paper Tiger alumni Tuli Kupferberg, Simin Farkhondeh, Cathy Scott and Randi Cecchine, Peoples Video Network Johnny Stevens, and Voyager's Brian Drolet. The discussion is moderated by Dee Dee Halleck, who founded Paper Tiger in 1981. Video clips feature: Paper Tiger, a selection of programs representing the group's fifteen year history; Deep Dish, a national grass roots satellite network that grew out of Paper Tiger; and People's Video Network, a collective that produces and distributes activist programming.
Paper Tiger Television is a series of programs that are broadcast on public access channels, which analyze and critique issues involving media, culture and politics. The shows feature scholars, community activists, critics and journalists addressing the ideological assumptions and social meanings of the mainstream media as well as exploring the opportunities for alternative communications sources. Paper Tiger's approach is decidedly low budget; the average cost per half hour program during the early 1980s was $200, most of which represented studio time. Broadcast weekly, Paper Tiger featured well known intellectuals and cultural critics offering an incisive interpretation of a chosen publication. The series included popular segments such as Herbert Schiller reads the New York Times, Murray Bookchin reads Time; Tuli Kupferberg reads Rolling Stone; and Martha Rosler reads Vogue to name a few. During the late 1980s and 1990s Paper Tiger grew more sophisticated technically and has produced segments on topics ranging from the Gulf War, to media coverage in the Balkans, to the EZLN uprising in Mexico to Barbie.
Paper Tiger's programs examine a particular aspect of the communications industry, from print media to TV to movies, looking at its impact on public perception and opinion. Other videos represent the people and views which are largely absent from the mainstream media. The goal of the programming is to provide viewers with a critical understanding of the communications industry. This critical consciousness, Paper Tiger maintains, is a necessary step towards more equitable and democratic control of information resources.
Speakers: Tuli Kupferberg is a writer, editor, artist who was also a member of the legendary East Village band The Fugs; Simin Farkhondeh and Cathy Scott made the Gulf Crisis TV Project; Randi Cecchine currently works at Paper Tiger Television; Johnny Stevens is from People's Video Network; and, Brian Drolet of Voyager, produced the Mumia Abu Jamal CD Rom and is working with Paper Tiger on future internet projects. Moderator Dee Dee Halleck conceived and founded Paper Tiger Television in 1981. She currently teaches at University of California at San Diego.
During the week of April 8-13 selections from Paper Tiger, Deep Dish, People's Video Network, the Gulf Crisis TV project and Voyager's CD Rom on Mumia Abu Jamal can be seen at Exit Art / The First World's Cafe Cultura.
The public programs of Exit Art / The First World are funded in part by the NYSCA/DCA Cultural Challenge Initiative.
Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle"
Dates Saturday, April 13 & 20 8:00/10:00 pm
Organizer Keith Sanborn
Exit Art / The First World is pleased to announce the screening, in video format, of Guy Debord's influential and remarkable film The Society of the Spectacle. The film will be presented on video with newly translated English subtitles by Keith Sanborn. This evening will mark the first New York screening of the work.
Few groups have had a more profound impact on post-War France than the Situationist Internationale (SI). From 1957 to 1972 the Situationists formed the center of an unparalleled interrogation of political and cultural relations. Alternately credited with causing or participating in the May 1968 uprising in Paris, the Situationists slogans and tactics became common coin for the generation of 1968 in France.
Guy Debord, one of the founding members of the Situationist Internationale, has been painted both as a dynamic figure and as the egotistical pope of the SI. His writings and actions over three decades have had a tremendous impact, as Mr. Sanborn notes, "If Debord's work in theory has become the unexamined, decontextualized cornerstone cliché of postmodernism, his paintings, artists books and films are unfortunately known to only very few outside of France." This situation was exacerbated during a ten year period --from 1984 until early 1995 -- when, by Debord's explicit prohibition, his films were not shown in France. This situation arose in the wake of the assassination of Gerard Lebovici, a major figure in the French film industry and Debord's longtime friend, publisher and producer. The French press maligned Debord in their coverage of Lebovici's murder, going as far as to link Debord with the West German radical/terrorist Baader-Meinhof group. The papers were forced to print retractions and, Debord pulled his films from distribution declaring they would never again be shown in France, later adding "'I should have said, 'or anywhere else.'" Debord maintained this ban until 1994 when he collaborated on a video project with Brigitte Cornand. To end a painful illnesss, Debord committed sucide in late 1994. In January 1995, by previous arrangement, the new collaborative video was shown on Canal + in France along with Society of the Spectacle and Refutation of all judgements which have been brought up to now whether in praise or hostile to the film called Society of the Spectacle. The latter is a response to the critical reception of Society of the Spectacle in the form of a 20-minute film.
The film Society of the Spectacle is Debord's 1973 adaptation of his 1967 book by the same name. The film is an essay, based upon the Situationist theory of "detournement," that is, the recontextualized use of pre-existing images as a form of social critique. In Society of the Spectacle, Debord uses images and sequences from Hollywood features, East Block features, news footage, documentaries, tv commercials, soft-core porn and a vast number of stills, some of which seem explicitly shot for the film. The film makes use of a nearly continuous voice-over consisting of passages from Debord's 1967 text. Sanborn speculatively identifies the speaker as Debord himself. Music for the film is by the 18th century composer Michel Corette. The film is structured around intertitles, which include both acknowledged and unacknowledged quotations from Hegel, Marx, Cieszkowski, von Clausewitz and others. The film is extremely dense visually, verbally, psychologically, intellectually. Society of the Spectacle has had a tremendous impact in France. It is an astonishingly sophisticated and coherent response to the experience of May 1968.
Keith Sanborn is a filmmaker who has organized several projects on Lettrist and Situationist films including Film Modernism and its discontents: a perspective from Paris, a series of Situationist films that were presented at Exit Art in 1990. He is also noted for The Deadman, a film made in collaboration with Peggy Ahwesh and based on the novel by Georges Bataille. Mr. Sanborn has also translated other films including Rene Vienet's Can Dialectics break bricks? Berthold Brecht and Erich Engel's Mysteries of a Hair Salon, Gilm Wollman's The Anticoncept, Maurice LeMaitre's Is the film started yet?
Peter Berg, founding member of the Diggers in San Francisco
Date Friday, May 10, 1:00 pm
As a part of the exhibition Counterculture: Alternative Information from the Underground Press to the Internet, Exit Art / The First World will present an afternoon with Peter Berg, a founding member of the San Francisco collective, the Diggers and an actor and performer with the San Francisco Mime Troupe where he originated the term Guerrilla Theater.
The Diggers, a San Francisco-based group that maintained a commitment to a free society, involved artists, performers and activists. The Diggers were influenced by the theories of Marx, Brecht and Artaud. Formed in the fall of 1966 as an outgrowth of the Artists Liberation Front, many of the Diggers were also affiliated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. After the Hunter's Point riot of 1966 -- an event that brought out the National Guard who enforced curfews -- students and the burgeoning hippie community of the Bay Area planned a protest. According to Eric Noble, a chronicler of the Diggers, members of the Artist's Liberation Front found the student organizations, particularly Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and confrontational tactics "lame" and instead decided to host a happening/festival in Golden Gate Park where everything would be fr