You can never leave the Hotel California - Off-Ramp for May 17, 2014

EZTV: Channeling West Hollywood's artsy video history

Michael J. Masucci interviewing a bystander at the Gay Pride Parade on Santa Monica Boulevard, c. 1983. 60 minutes. EZTV Video Collection ONE Archives at the USC Libraries

Still from James Williams’ Clear Canvas, 1984. Analog Betamax, edited on 3/4″ video, 5 minutes. EZTV Video Collection. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries

EZTV: Video Transfer installation photograph, April 2014. Courtesy of ONE Archives at the USC Libraries


In the early '80s, a group of experimental filmmakers and artists in West Hollywood created EZTV, a small production house and screening venue devoted entirely to video.

At the time, the collective lacked funding for film projects, and video was far cheaper to produce.

"The only way we were going to make things is if we could afford to make them ourselves," said EZTV co-founder Michael J. Masucci, who went by the name Michael Jay. "Video was the poor man's art form. Unless you had a rich uncle or a deal with Warner Bros., then video was probably the way you were going to look."

Video had some serious image issues at the time, when most Hollywood bigwigs considered it a poor substitute for film. But this didn't stop EZTV from attracting an eclectic group of collaborators and media coverage. 

"Within months of EZTV opening, we started to get national attention," said Masucci. "We had the opportunity to consider work from Nigeria, from Yoko Ono, from major poets — they found out about us one way or another."

EZTV's archives — a massive collection of over 300 video tapes — seems to leave almost no genre untouched. It includes kitschy musical shorts like Sandra Lowell's "Tap Dance the News." 

Then there were experimental feature-length works, like John Dorr's "Sudzall Does It All," shot entirely on a borrowed bank security camera.
 
Homeless until now, the entire EZTV archives has been donated to ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. The arrival is being celebrated with an exhibition of the weird and wonderful work produced by the pioneering video collective — EZTV: Video Transfer.
 

ONE Curator David Frantz collaborated with EZTV co-founder Michael J. Masucci and current EZTV President Kate Johnson to create the exhibition. The result is a glimpse into the impressive range of projects to come out of the space, mostly displayed on decades-old equipment for an added sense of history.

Frantz’s selections focus on the '80s and '90s — when EZTV was based in West Hollywood — and the space’s role in a growing queer video and art scene.

"Many of the founding members of EZTV were openly gay at a time when that was still career suicide," said Masucci. "I don’t think (founder John Dorr) ever seriously considered calling EZTV 'The Gay Building,' but it was... I think part of EZTV’s legacy has to be that diversity is a reality, diversity is to be celebrated, but diversity isn’t a condition. And we were about video."

EZTV: Video Transfer will be at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives until June 1st — don't miss the exhibition's final night of performances and projections in West Hollywood Park on May 31st.


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