A Description of Media Study/Buffalo Film/Imagemaking Workshop (1971, 1997)

Publication TypeUnpublished
AuthorsO'Grady, Gerald
Source (1972)
Full Text: 

Founded by Dr. Gerald O'Grady.

    "Literacy's been with us now since the nineteenth century and is pretty much accepted to be a universal thrust. My own theory is that we should move towards what I call 'mediacy'. It's a political issue; one cannot participate in society unless one can use the channels or codes of communication that are current in the time that one lives."
                                  Gerald O'Grady Videoscope, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977
  • Media Study Buffalo Pamela Susan Hawkins 1997
  • A Description of Media Study/Buffalo Film/Imagemaking Workshop  Dr. Gerald O'Grady 1971

Media Study Buffalo Pamela Susan Hawkins
Media Study Inc., [in 1972] a new Buffalo public service foundation developed by Dr. Gerald O'Grady, a State University of Buffalo media educator, [was] awarded [a] $25,000 "seeding" grant from the [New York State Council on the Arts] to allow "Buffalo citizens of all ages to more fully participate in the creation of technological forms...and to gain insight into their social and psychological effects." The grant provide[d] for photographic, movie, sound and videotape equipment, space rental and instructors." (4)

With these monies, Media Study undertook the organization and supervision of a twenty-week course in media awareness, Film/Imagemaking Workshop. The course, enrolling twenty-one members in the Buffalo region, began work on February 5, 1972. "Participants in the course were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with techniques of 8mm, Super-8, 16mm and video production under the tutelage of visiting instructors Stan Vanderbeek, Yvonne Andersen, Stan Brakhage, Richard Leacock and Ed Emswiller. Participants produced individual film and video projects as well as a 16mm film produced by the group as a whole.

Concurrent with their production efforts, participants were exposed to the films of their instructors as well as films by a series of visiting film-makers brought to Buffalo in conjunction with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery." (5) Workshop participants included Marcia Baer, Anthony Bannon, Sam Brunetto, Terry Doran, Seth Feldman, Keith Gemerek, Robin Hogan, Georgianna Jungels, William Jungels, Herta Kane, Robert Mahoney, John Minkowsky, Linda Ormont, Scott Nygren, James Pappas, Anthony Petrofsky, Edward Smith, Roger Stone, Joyce Whiting and Ron Wofford. (6) Screenings and lectures beyond the workshop's instructors included: Richard Myers, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka and Bruce Baillie. Other artists works screened were by: Norman McLaren, Rick Harper, Yellow Ball School, Robert Breer, Roger Stone, Charles Braverman, Chris Marker, Charles Eames, Len Lye, Oscar Fischinger, Brown and Olvey, Kenneth Anger, Will Hindle, Dziga Vertov, Paul Sharits, Leon Protchnik, Irving Kriesberg, Anthony Bannon and Terry Doran, and Ed Sumner. (7)

In 1973 the Center for Media at S.U.N.Y. Buffalo under the Direction of Gerald O'Grady developed a graduate seminar for students to do research on individuals filmmakers followed by interviews with visiting filmmakers. "The tapes were to be transcribed and published in Media Study, publication of Media Study Inc., a tax-free public-service foundation. (3)

"In the heyday of support [1970's] from the New York State Council on the Arts and Humanities and Education Department, and the federal programs, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and the U.S. Information Agency, funding was attracted to Western New York for an amazing array of programs, many at the Center for Media Study at UB and at Media Study/Buffalo. Some particularly compelling programs from the 70s and 80s include:

Conference on Teaching Making, December 11-17, 1973 (30 film and video makers, 10 representatives of grant-giving organizations, 8 days conference, 1 day seminar) SUNY/Buffalo, Media Study/Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Design/Electronic Arts Conference, March 10-13, 1977 (32 speakers/artists, 160 guests), supported by the Center for Media Study/SUNY Buffalo and Media Study/Buffalo, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts; at Marine Midland Center and Ellicott Square Building, Buffalo.

Contemporary Directions in the Public Affairs Documentary, February 22-25, 1978 (23 speakers, 15 film and videotapes, 250 guests) sponsored by the Center for Media Study, SUNY at Buffalo, WNED-Channel 17, and Media Study/Buffalo; supported by the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Media projects originated by Media Study/Buffalo under O'Grady's direction in this period include:

The Oral History of the Independent Film -- over 50 interviews with filmmakers, four hours or more in length.

Distribution Problems of Independent Filmmakers -- 35 question survey of 1,000 filmmakers.

The Independents -- two 12-hour series, "Dis/Patches" -- arts programming -- and "Agenda" -- social issues documentaries by independent makers for stelite-cable distribution by The Learning Channel, Washington, D.C., funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 1984-85.

The Frontier -- a series of thirteen programs of works by independent makers who reside within the target area of WNED-Channel 17, Buffalo. This series funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and Canada Council, 1980-1985.

America's Lost and Found -- award winning feature length documentary for public television on the 1930's, $150,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, premiere April 1980 on WNET-TV (New York Public Television).

Film-Maker -- series of 13 televised interviews with filmmakers produced by Channel 17/WNED for national public television, January-May 1976." (8)

"In the mid-seventies, Media Study suffered a ...crisis. Survival was partially achieved by the donation of a building, once a grand hotel turned film production facility." (2)

In a 1980 article in The Independent, Fran Platt, Ann Volkes and Gerry Pallor wrote, "...the Media Study building, an old hotel on a busy downtown street. Space is what they have plenty of, from a huge, high-ceilinged, windowless ballroom, rendered acoustically dead by exposed fiberglass installation, to an empty swimming pool with a 7-second echo. The former is generally used for video installations; the latter is being developed as an audio recording/performance space.

Exhibition is paramount here. Media Study's two enthusiastic full-time staff curators are eager to hear from artists with completed work for potential installations and screenings.

The equipment program is geared toward local small-format producers, with a strong emphasis on audio, including a professional quality sound synthesizer, 4-channel mixer and tape recorders. Half and 3/4" video editing systems and a Rutt/Etra synthesizer are housed in warm, bright rooms. Portable video equipment is loaned for use in Buffalo only. Prices are low; a deposit is required; reserve equipment by phone and bring identification." The 1980 staff was Director, Dr. Gerald O'Grady; Workshops/Equipment Access, Kurt Feichtmeir; Film Programmer, Bruce Jenkins; and Video/Electronic Arts Curator, John Minkowsky. (1)

Through a series of financial struggles, a deteriorating building, equipment loss, over budget programming and lack of programming documentation filed with granting institutions, Media Study, which never officially closed its doors, stood empty in 1985. With the loss of media making access to equipment and presentation venues, Squeaky Wheel, a new local collective, under interim president, Brian Springer, began incorporation. (9)

1. Fran Platt with Ann Volkes, Electronic Arts Intermix and Anthology Film Archives and
Gerry Pallor, Young Filmmakers/Video Arts, "Upstate Report part one," Foundation for Independent Video and Film, New York City, The Independent, March 80, vol. 3, no. 2, pg. 11.
2. Debra Goldman, "Buffalo Bills Come Due," The Independent, vol. 8, no. 7, September 1985, pg. 3.
3. Gerald O'Grady, "The Oral History of the Independent American Cinema," 1973[?], pg. 2.
4. Anthony Bannon, "Workshop on Imagery Sponsored by State," Buffalo Evening News, February 11, 1972, pg. [?].
5. Seth Feldman, "A Report on the 1972 Film/Imagemaking Workshop at Media Study, Buffalo prepared for the New York State Counci on the Arts," Introductory Note.
6. Seth Feldman, "A Report on the 1972 Film/Imagemaking Workshop at Media Study, Buffalo prepared for the New York State Counci on the Arts," Participants.
7. Seth Feldman, "A Report on the 1972 Film/Imagemaking Workshop at Media Study, Buffalo prepared for the New York State Counci on the Arts," Screenings and Guest Lectures.
8. Marguerite W. Knowles, "Mediascope Buffalo: The Moving Image in and around Buffalo 1970-1995," The Squealer, vol. 11, issue 2, Spring 1996, pg.7-8.
9. Debra Goldman, "Buffalo Shuffalo," The Independent, vol. 9, no. 3, April 1986, pg. 4.

A Description of Media Study/Buffalo Film/Imagemaking Workshop
Dr. Gerald O'Grady from "A Report on the 1972 Film/Imagemaking Workshop at Media Study, Buffalo.

Media Study Inc. was granted the right to incorporate for the following purposes.
(a) To encourage and make possible personal and collaborative creativity and audience development in and to establish, maintain, support and administer the study of and research into all the various codes and modes of media by which men communicate and interact with each other and with their environments, and to serve as a center for the development, demonstration and dissemination of a humanistic approach to the various modes of communication, without exclusion or limitation, language, gesture, graphics, computer graphics, television, film, photography, radio, advertising, public relations, painting, music, theatre, publishing, printing, sound, sculpture, architecture, dance, and any combination of these.
(b) To encourage, foster and engage in the development of new ideas and formats for the various modes of the media arts, the design of innovative community programs, experimental classes, pilot projects and model curricula in the arts of media communication for citizens of all ages; to research the psychic, social and cultural effects of the media arts; to establish programs for the understanding of the media arts; to organize and arrange regional, national and international conferences to encourage the development of audience awareness for the media arts; to disseminate ideas on media through lectures and publication.
(c) To cooperate with cultural, charitable, educational, business, commercial and community institutions throughout the United States and the world to advance the purposes of this organization.

          Because we are a new organization and are presenting a new program it seems important to acquaint the panel and council members with our posture toward the media arts before describing that program in detail.
          After two historic blows to his self-image - the Copernican recognition that made him an inhabitant of one among many planets and the Darwinian discovery that challenged his unique position among organisms and assigned him a place among the millions of other species which evolved from one another - man has now taken his first step on another planet and has begun to artificially produce his own genetic materials. We have arrived today at a completely new stage in our evolutionary journey of self-awareness. Man now begins to realize that he is the one organism who not only controls but creates an increasingly large part of the environment to which he adapts, and that he has developed, in the physical sciences, the life sciences, the behavioral sciences, les sciences de 1'homme, and not least in the arts, an increasingly sophisticated set of perceptions, processes and procedures to monitor, track and interpret man's interaction with his "extending self."
The central goals, the inherent "mindfulness," of our work with contemporary citizens of all ages are two: to make them aware of this new stage of human evolution in which aesthetic and moral values become increasingly important, and to enable them to find coherent and flexible "ways" of locating themselves, finding a home, within this on-going process. Just a few days ago (May 15, 1971), Marshall McLuhan wrote in our Buffalo Evening News: "Those existing as the content of a man-made environment never cease adjusting it to their own behavior, just as they adjust their behavior to their environment. For the residents of the wired planet or the magnetic city, creating and planning now begin to assume the character of rapid and extensive change..."
                    The intention of MDIA STUDY, Inc. is to realize these goals. Whatever program we undertake will be placed in the context of a continual attempt to coherently reveal to all citizens an ever-evolving process of interaction among three "fields," here called self, media, and culture. The scenario for this interaction would require an extended position paper, but, here, each of these "fields" can be briefly identified. Self would include a knowledge of and attention to the way in which our various sense perceptions work and an awareness of our consciousness as an integration of memory, feeling, intelligence and imagination. Culture refers to the various scientific and social structures described in physics, technology, sociology, economics, politics, etc. media refer to all of the symbolic codes of human communication, especially their elevation into intensive art forms, and to their interaction with and influencing of each other.
                   The central importance of the media arts is their generation of man's self-awareness. George Herbert Mead wrote: "The importance of what we term communication' lies in the fact that it provides a form of behavior in which the organism of the individual may become an object to himself." Mead's insight that, through the symbolic forms of various media, man "not only bears himself but responds to himself" is today codified under a variety of terms extending from "self-reflexiveness" through "feedback." The media not only separate man from his environment, make a mirror through which he sees and intuits his relationship to his "surround," but they are the connections, the ligatures, the bondings between human minds. The media are to be seen not only as extensions of the self, of consciousness, but as providing the culture, or the environment, in which man'lives most richly. Our approach centers on the concept of interaction between the three "fields" of self, media and culture and is oriented toward the idea of process. Merleau-Ponty wrote: "My mobility is the way in which 1 counterbalance the mobility of things, thereby understanding and surmounting it. All perception is movement. And the world's unity, the perceiver's unity, are the unity of counterbalanced displacements." John McHale describes man's journey to self-awareness: "The history of art is a kind of case study of a group trying to find a relatively disciplined way of using the whole mind rather than only the accepted so-called rational limits of the mind.
                    In his small classic, The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch writes:
Not only is the city an object which is perceived and enjoyed by millions of people of widely diverse class and character, but it is the product of many builders who are constantly modifying the structure for reasons of their own. While it may be stable in general outline for some time, it is ever changing in detail. Only partial control can be exercised over its growth and form. There is no final result, only a continuous succession of phases.
                    Our intention is to enable the citizens of Buffalo to "see" their city in this way, and, more importantly, to understand that each citizen self is experiencing a continuous stage of growth in feeling and perception, and that these in turn are conditioned by the ever changing media which provide the mirrors, the connections, the extensions and the environment in and through which each self integrates himself in.our community.
                    Our first proposal is to establish an image-making workshop or laboratory in Buffalo.
                    Our proposal is to establish, on the analogy of an open gymnasium or a "neighborhood pool room," a visual/aural image center as a prototype for the later establishment of others throughout the city and area, as we think such structures are essential to develop the creative self-potential of individual citizens and the sensitivity of his fellow-citizens as an audience in both the schooled and the deschooled society. We are at one with the recently established Arts/Worth in believing that training in perception and social vision must become central in the lives of our countrymen.
                    We feel that the images and sounds of the various older and newer media all interact with each other in our current culture and that the problem of aesthetic deprivation would best be attacked at this moment not by isolated, separatist approaches, but by revealing the interaction of all the media, both old and new art forms, through an appreciation of our contemporary audio-visual environment. Consequently, our sound/image "labs," which will be open afternoons and evenings each day, will originate in slide-tape workshops - the slides being used to introduce still photography, drawing, and various other modes of graphic production and reproduction - which will heighten sensitivity to the watching/making potential of eye and ear. Then we will proceed to filmmaking and to video, showing that the images from all of these media can be continuously recycled in each other's formats, comparing the differences in textures, and stressing the commonality of their origin in the interaction of the exploring self with his environment. While we would emphasize the freedom of personal expression, we would actively encourage our participants to use these newer media to investigate and uncover the joys and values of the older media such as language (e.g., in the animation of concrete poetry), drama (e.g., the adaptation and modernization of traditional plays to the techniques of the creative graphics of portable video), sculpture and architecture (e.g., a slide collection of the city's monuments put to a "sounds of the city" soundtrack).
                    In the beginning phase of this program, we would select twenty Buffalo citizens on the basis of their abilities in the arts, their activities as cultural catalysts, and their promise to assist in the establishment of other centers which, hopefully, would interact with other community groups, to undergo a fourth-month instruction period with a visiting image-maker who has demonstrated his excellence in all of these media and in relating them to each other. There are few such people, but one of the best, Stan Vanderbeek, has been contacted and is willing to participate in this innovative situation. While this instruction was taking place, we would be simultaneously using our facilities and equipment for young and old who are interested in taking advantage of our creative media gym, and we would be holding special demonstrations for schools, community centers and other specialized groups within the city.
              Equipment is a vital necessity. We have established that to rent or lease the equipment for the almost continual use of a wide variety of citizens would cost more than to purchase it. We are bound,' by our by-laws, to obtain three competitive bids on all purchases of equipment, as well as to insure it and to keep it in excellent repair. We would look on this equipment as the beginning of a Buffalo Media Resources Center, Council-sponsored, and, in the future, we would make the equipment available, as well as instruction about its use, to persons and groups identified by the New York State Council on the Arts and ourselves. We are also seeking funds for an essentially complementary part of this program aimed at introducing and stimulating the media arts in Buffalo. We are requesting funds to cover the costs of the visits of eighteen visiting imagemakers to show and discuss their productions in Buffalo. Media Study Inc. would arrange these visits after consultation with various city groups who could offer locations and matching funds for these appearances. The importance of this part of the program would be to initiate a dialogue among the various groups in Buffalo who are interested in the media arts and to bring them together in a common, coherent, city-wide effort to advance their cause among the local population and to begin to make cooperative plans. (It might be mentioned that Media Study Inc. is submitting a proposal to the Western New York Foundation to fund its research in compiling a complete media profile of Buffalo.) Media Study Inc. would arrange for publicity in local print media and schedule television appearances for the visiting artists while they are in Buffalo, and we see this as an essential step in communicating our intentions to the community at large and to begin raising the local financial support we will need to continue operations.

This is a new program and is dependent on Council funding for beginning. The sound/image gymnasium would be established in January, 1972 and operate through June 30, 1972, and the visiting artists would appear during these months. The visiting artist-in-residence would live in Buffalo from January-April, 1972. We would then be prepared to expand and intensify our activities during the following summer.

Group Name: 
Media Study/Buffalo
Group Dates: 
1972 - 1985
Group Location: 
Buffalo, New York