Friday, June 15, 2012

Former Member Mary Curtis Ratcliff Donates Prints to Preserve Videofreex Archive


In 1969, CBS started a secret pilot project to help bring stories from the cultural and political revolution into the newsroom, stories that were typically ignored by the three networks. They hired ten hippies to document the counterculture.

CBS had bankrolled the young men and women with what was then cutting edge technology: portable video. With it, the group traveled the country getting footage the network could not access, including interviews with Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther Fred Hampton. The documentary this group of young filmmakers produced was decades ahead of its time — but CBS decided not to use it and fired them. Since CBS considered the equipment to be worthless as well, they let the group keep it. Thus Videofreex, a pioneering video collective, was born.

At first, the Videofreex lived in a Soho loft. But in 1971, they moved to a rambling farmhouse in the Catskills where they started the first pirate television station in the country, Channel 3 Lanesville TV. It was on the air five years and became a model for Public Access Stations across the country.

Unfortunately, video has a much shorter life than film and the Videofreex work is quickly deteriorating. Two filmmakers, Jenny Raskin and Jon Nealon, are committed to restoring it and creating a documentary, "which tells the story of the most radical video collective of the 1960s and 1970s."  

As one of the ten Videofreex members, visual artist Mary Curtis Ratcliff has donated several works of art to the Kickstarter fundraising efforts.

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