Sunday, April 10, 2011

1985: The New York Times on CITV

“The series was launched in 1979 by the video producer Liza Bear under the title of ''Communications Update,'' its territory the exploration of issues in telecommunications and related technology. In 1983, the program was somewhat fancifully rechristened to reflect its changing orientation as a forum for experimental video makers.
According to Milli Iatrou, who took over as the series' executive producer in 1984, ''Cast Iron TV'' has now presented about 100 different programs. ...
Most of them share a playful street- smartness and a deep affinity for the textures of life in New York City. Their looseness of form and less-than- lavish production values are frequently used for purposeful effect, to provide an ironic commentary on commercial television's glossiness and tired formulas. ...
The series features not only productions that ''Cast Iron'' commissions but previously existing video works as well, most of which are brought to Miss Iatrou's attention by word of mouth. A ''core group of five or six'' video artists contributes regularly to the series' original productions, Miss Iatrou said, ''with everyone working in several capacities.'' ...
Over the years, several of the productions that originated on ''Cast Iron TV'' have been shown in video festivals held in Bonn, Bologna and The Hague, as well as at the Museum of Modern Art. The latest tribute to the series came earlier this year when the American Museum of the Moving Image, the film archives located in the Kaufman Studios in Astoria, Queens, screened four ''Cast Iron TV'' segments.
''We try to show things that are experimental in form or content, but which are accessible as well,'' Miss Iatrou explained. Accessibility, however, is somewhat inhibited by the extremely limited budget on which the series operates - ''the toughest thing we have to deal with,'' she said. A half-hour of ''Cast Iron TV'' typically costs $500 to produce, with some of the segments coming in for as little as $200. Grants from the New York State Council on the Arts have helped defray production costs.”

Source: "CABLE TV NOTES: Experimentation Shapes Cast Iron TV", Steve Schneider, New York Times, April 14, 1985
for full article see PRESS on horizontal menu bar

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cable Review Lounge

In 1983 THE KITCHEN created THE CABLE REVIEW LOUNGE which, "was conceived as a bi-monthly get-together for people interested in artist-produced cable programming.
Cable Review will serve three purposes: to enable people who previously have been unable to view the programs to see them, to provide an opportunity for various cable producers to discuss developments in cable, and to introduce people to public access television."

Participating shows included:
Paper Tiger
Cast Iron TV
Artists Television Network
Potato Wolf / Fresh Potatoes

Source: KITCHEN press release, "Cable Review Lounge", MaryAnne McGowan,1983

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cast Iron TV: Programs

"Cast Iron TV (which airs Wednesdays at 7:30 on Manhattan Cable and Group W’s channel D) has a broad range of styles and concerns, from documentary to abstract narrative. The series has featured an interview with a Polisario representative from the Sahara, explored the implications of world satellite regulation, raised questions about police responsibility for the death of artist Michael Stewart, and parodied religious fund-raising shows.
The Reverend Peachy has appeared in five segments ... Among other things, the Reverend has tackled the topic of artists’ housing, pointing out little-known architectural features such as aerobic stairs and multipurpose sinks (good for washing paint brushes, dishes and faces). Appropriately, producers Millie Iatrou and Ron Morgan shoot the Peachy segments on Beta equipment in their own apartment. ... The series, now coordinated by Iatrou, has run over the years on a shoestring budget of $200 per show, and the individual producers generally recruit their own volunteer crews.
Like several of the New York artist-run series, Cast Iron occasionally airs alternative programming from abroad. Last summer it picked up a BBC “access” show which indicted racism on English TV. ... Another program, by documentarians David Pentecost and Lyn Tiefenbacher, explored the relationship of deforestation and the cultural survival of Mayan Indians."

Source: “Artists Gain Access to Cable”, Kathleen Hulser, Videography, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 1985

For more schedules see PAGES.

Send No Money Now!

"There's something I wanna say to you right now and I wanna close-up for this. And I mean this sincerely. Don't send any money right now, okay? Send not a penny. You may wanna send money to me because that's the kind of thing you've learned to expect from a religious show such as this. You know, you get the bible, and you get the prayers, and you get all that stuff, but they want you to send money now. In fact, we're gonna flash something on the screen, right now that's gonna say, Send no money now. Okay, now take a look at that."

The Very Reverend Deacon b. Peachy's Quarter Hour plus Thirteen Minutes
Part One: A Minor Retrospection
Iatrou/Morgan, 1982, 28 min.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Tools

In the mid-seventies, around 1976 (exact date TK) the Sony color portapak became available. Artists could submit project proposals to local TV stations such as WXXI in Rochester and if blessed take out a Sony 1600 camera and portable deck for a few days, maybe up to a week. This was quite a trek for New York City artists and I remember lugging the equipment over 6-foot banks of snow.
As a more practical alternative we formed a video coop to purchase production equipment; a color camera portapak, microphone, fluid head tripod, battery belt. The coop included full shares and half shares, and most of the coop members contributed to the weekly series, often working on each other's shows, either on location, in a make-shift studio we had set up on the ground floor of 93 Grand Street in SoHo (former HQ for Avalanche magazine) or sometimes with Jim Chladek at Manhattan Cable's live studio at 120 East 23rd Street.

Production Coop Members

Production Coop Expenses


As the number of artist producers expanded, so did the style 
and subject matter of the shows, which ranged from political documentary to satire. The schedule itself gives a better idea of the wide range of formats, as unique as the artists who produced them.  In 1983, Communications Update was renamed to reflect that change. 
Ironically, although the new name, Cast Iron TV, clearly 
identified an architectural neighborhood in lower Manhattan,
the outlook or program scope didn't limit itself to SoHo. Nor 
did the producers who weren't all based in New York. For instance, Janet Densmore's The Algiers Killings explored the murders of African-Americans as retribution for a slain cop in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Video artists Sonja Ivekovic and Dalibor Martinis produced two programs on Zagreb Video.

Soho Weekly News, 10 March 1982

Artists: The Very Reverend Deacon b. Peachy

In 1982 Liza Béar invited me and Ronald Morgan, to make a 28 minute TV program for the cable TV series, Communications Update. At that time, Morgan and I were fascinated and amused by late night televangelists. THE VERY REVEREND DEACON B. PEACHY’S 1/4 HOUR PLUS 13 MINUTES was born.

THE VERY REVEREND DEACON B. PEACHY series became a eight sermon satire which chronicled the Reverend’s efforts to establish an electronic pulpit on New York TV.

The PEACHY series was subsequently shown at MOMA, The Whitney, The American Museum of the Moving Image, international video festivals and written about in Artforum, The New York Times and The Soho News.

Milly Iatrou
Los Angeles
The Reverend's press release, circa 1983

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How did the show evolve?

"As a whole, the programs on Communications Update have had a political orientation, and have taken a fairly direct approach to their material. When Communications Update first came on the air, it focused on developments in telecommunications policies and technologies. The impetus was not only to provide a body of information which might otherwise not be available in mass media sources, but a concern with the kind of coverage given. As Liza Bear, the series' executive producer wrote, "To artists concerned with changing the tone and content of television, with what is shown and said and how, nuance and integrity of presentation are paramount." ...
After its initial season, Communications Update began to shift its emphasis. Bear explains, "I didn't want to go on just becoming a lexicon or dictionary of new technology or new political policy problems." While retaining its documentary mode, Communications Update began to develop as an outlet for programs made by individuals attempting to gain "an active role in the making of information as artists and as citizens." ...
Communications Update subsequently focused on works which explored the relationship between documentary and drama, not conforming to either but drawing from both."

Source: "Independents on Television," Pat Thomson, Afterimage, Summer 1983

Sunday, March 27, 2011

History: Impetus for the show

Schedule for the first 13-week series 
 Jan-Apr 1980:

Why did we start the show? 

One reason was that "the TV media was not covering communications issues and we felt that it had to be done. It was important that we, as artists, investigate the issues presented by the facts as we perceive them and not from the vantage of the multinational conglomerates; in so doing we made the information our own by working with it."

Source: "Great Expectations: Artists' TV Guide, Robin White, Artforum International Summer 1982. Quote by Liza Béar


"The initial thrust of Communications Update,
a weekly 28-minute public access tv show on
Manhattan Cable, was an interest in the
politics of communications (primarily cable
and satellite). Frequency and consistency of
output being essential components of cultural
impact, we used the public channels because they were the only consistent media outlet that we had—a regular weekly outlet as opposed to sporadic exhibition of videos in alternative spaces. The aim was to provide artists an active role in the making of information, as opposed to being passive receivers of it, and an opportunity to share their on-going investigations with a wider audience.
     Most of the initial programs were produced through our own video cooperative, [and] were political in orientation. The focus on telecommunications policies and technologies didn’t come out of the blue. A response to the emerging electronics revolution of the late seventies, it was an outgrowth of interactive satellite tapes I made with sculptor Keith Sonnier [Send/Receive: Phase I and Phase II) in 1977-78, and an attempt to localize it. The impetus was not only to provide a body of information which was not available from mass media sources, but also to be concerned with the kind of coverage given—how that information was presented. I wanted to distinguish the program from the authoritative postures assumed by network broadcasting.
     “To artists concerned with changing the tone and content of television, with what is shown and said and how, nuance and integrity of presentation are paramount.
    “Artists make books, magazines, films, installations, transmissions and window displays, as well as lucrative artifacts and trouble for the clean boundaries of a category, so no one should feel queasy that we make television. Like other forms and formats for work, we use cable to symbolize, to amuse, to inform, to perform, to debunk, to demystify, to comment, to formally experiment, to shift gears, to analyse, to reveal, to investigate, to instigate an interaction ...”
Liza Bear, “All Aboard”, The Independent, March 1983
Go to LINKS for complete article, for Keith Sonnier's website and the Send/Receive blog (in beta mode).