February 2, 2020
Written by Michael J. Masucci
The following short introduction is more intended for cultural historians and other academic specialists, than for more general interest readers:
The EZTV Museum project, is admittedly, an autoethnographic work. I fully understand the contentious nature of such works, and actually share many of the concerns of the critics of autoenthnography.
However, absent any serious academic effort to rectify and clarity the full scope and diversity of Southern California’s media art history, such a project is currently still essential. In the process of EZTV archives’ acquisition by ONE Archives at USC and through participation in Stanford University’s “Practice Based Research in the Arts MOOC”, by instructors Leslie Hill and Helen Paris, this project has being enhanced, and continues to be enhanced, in terms of academic rigor, and commitment to accuracy.
The project’s significance is due to its presentation of long-ignored media art history, including and especially such micro-cultures as were in evidence in both the emerging digital art culture, as exemplified by LA ACM SIGGRAPH, or the equally ignored, yet profoundly differing impact of Queer culture on media art history.
In some cases for over 20 years, these archives have been carefully preserved, in many dozens of boxes, and moved several times, from studio spaces, to storage facilities, to our apartments and back to our current studio, where some of it has now already been transferred to its permanent home at USC’s ONE Archives. Over 1,000 video projects have been preserved, with several hundred to become part of ONE’s EZTV Video Archive.
The simple truth is that the digital media revolution was as much a purely intellectual and artistic invention, as it was a technological one. The need for ever-improving viable production tools by disenfranchised art communities is, as yet, a still under-recognized construct of the expansive narrative involving the entrance into today’s networked world. Use of once non-associated tools, such as word processors, video cameras, music production equipment and ultimately distribution through the world wide web, was fulfillment of a cultural need, as much an industrial and financial endeavor.
In addition to the over 1,000 videos and numerous ephemera preserved, representational samples of key hard-ware, from cameras to computer platforms have also been preserved. Names like Silicon Graphics and Ikegami, once recognized leaders among equipment manufacturers, survive on shelves at our physical location, awaiting a suitable permanent home.
Only through the collected archives of the artworks, essays, press coverage, hardware and other ephemera, can the importance of the EZTV narrative be better understood. For now, it must be self-authored. Yet, through efforts established through curators such as Alex Donis, whose work on 18th Street Arts Center’s participation in the Getty Research Center & Museum’s initiative Pacific Standard Time, and through the many years of support by LA ACM SIGGRAPH’s Co-Chair Joan Collins, has the history of EZTV become more recognized. Recent posts by writer Paulo Murillo have increased interest.
Most especially, through the involvement and efforts by ONE’s curator David Frantz, the beginnings of this history to become integrated into the conventional academic canon of media art discourse has taken root, To both David, as with Joan Collins, EZTV owes a debt of gratitude.
Several other individuals deserve particular recognition for the realization of this project, most importantly Otis College faculty member Kate Johnson. The simple truth is that the EZTV archives would likely have never survived to this day, without the dedicated commitment of Kate to their preservation. Additionally, artist Victor Acevedo's own archives have served as a rich source for this archive.
Andrea Forendar a young scholar studying at the Royal College of Art in London, uncovered evidence at the Victoria & Albert Museum, of a 1990 art show at EZTV, sponsored by LA ACM SIGGRAPH and curated by Patric Prince. Andrea’s investigation culminated in a research paper on the show, and an introduction to this history to various art historians at the RCA.
Most recently, through participation in the Stanford PBR MOOC, a cohort of five artist-scholars ( called Blueberry Blintz), spearheaded by Vanessa Blaylock of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, have become vital and thoughtful colleagues who have critiqued, advised and reviewed many aspects of this work in progress. Vanessa, along with cohort members Christa Forster, Katrina Schaag, Molly Ross and Rebecca Longworth, have informed me in numerous ways to improve not only the content of the site, but its distribution and acceptance as well. Their advice and encouragement has been essential in reaching towards the completion of the this first iteration of this online museum.
The idea that key aspects of EZTV’s archives might be of interest to USC’s ONE Archives was originally raised by actor/writer/director/activist Michael Kearns.
Finally, one last mention is needed. Almost a decade ago, Patrica Johnson (no relation to Kate Johnson), an educational consultant to Adobe, heard a guest lecture I made at San Francisco’s ACM SIGGRAPH. There, and at several subsequent occasions, she stated that an online museum about EZTV’s history would be vital to any semblance of an accurate history of California media art. She attempted to get an art school class to take on such an effort, but their results were not up to the task. Today, hopefully, we have at least achieved the beginnings of Patrica’s vision.
Despite the critical advancements in EZTV’s emerging and seemingly inevitable historification, many aspects of the full & complete history of the EZTV story remain untouched.
An autoethnographiuc work is always, by necessity biased and self-serving. I admit this as plain truth and ask no blind acceptance of the value of this specific history. I do, however, suggest an honest dialogue, weighing the accomplishments of EZTV, along with other now recognized and influential spaces, ranging from F Space, the Woman’s Building and LACE onto Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, and the Limelight, and along side other ‘fringe’ yet now influential art movements, such as Fluxus, Light & Space and Finish Fetish. It is my argument that the EZTV & CyberSpace Gallery histories can easily stand among these other notables. I understand, of course, the arrogance implied in such a statement. I only ask that objective scholars investigate for themselves, the materials and multiple and simultaneous historiographies, include in this effort, before blindly dismissing my assertion.
It is clear, that only the through the looking glass of living memory, of the narrative explained by the memorializing in text, the oral history of this complex and often confusing history (by first person accounts, and the surviving ephemera related to those accounts), can any semblance of accuracy be attempted. This, with the far more objective framing by third person historians, curators, journalists and critics, may someday begin to give true conveyance of what was, and still is, EZTV.
And so the presumption, or audacity to question the canonical dogma of the prematurely written media art histories, proliferating academia, is presented here, autoethnograpically. A doctoral dissertation without a university to endorse it. The culmination of 34 years, and many lives. Offered to anyone, who is willing to explore it.