The Revolution Will Be Videotaped: Making a Technology of Consciousness in the Long 1960s
United States History
In the late 1960s, video recorders became portable, leaving the television studio for the art gallery, the psychiatric hospital, and the streets. The technology of recording moving images on magnetic tape, previously of use only to broadcasters, became a tool for artistic expression, psychological experimentation, and political revolution. Video became portable not only materially but also culturally; it could be carried by an individual, but it could also be carried into institutions from the RAND Corporation to the Black Panther Party, from psychiatrists’ offices to art galleries, and from prisons to state-funded media access centers. Between 1967 and 1973, American videographers across many of these institutional contexts participated in a common discourse, sharing not only practical knowledge about the uses and maintenance of video equipment, but visions of its social significance, psychological effects, and utopian future. For many, video was a technology which would bring about a new kind of awareness, the communal consiousness that—influenced by the evolutionary philosophy of Henri Bergson—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin referred to as the noosphere and Marshall McLuhan as the global village. Experimental videographers across several fields were also influenced by the psychedelic research of the 1950s and early 1960s, by the development of cybernetics as a science of both social systems and interactions between humans and machines, by anthropology and humanistic psychology, and by revolutionary political movements in the United States and around the world.