Thuistezien 69 — 30.05.2020

Radical Software
Ira Schneider

Shift yourself to the late 1960s when not only in Europe, but also in the US a whole new dynamic was emerging in society, the so-called ‘counterculture’. Think of the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the Black Panthers, Flower power, the ecological awareness with the first edition of Earth Day, to the growing resistance against the Vietnam war, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the subsequent election of Richard Nixon. At the same time these were the golden years of the post-war recovery, the Western world had emerged from a dark period and the middle class was expanding. This is not only couple to a new form of mass production and consumption, but is also characterised by an entirely new phenomenon that has entered in our living room, that of mass media and commercial television. The Vietnam war was broadcasted in an unprecedented way as we saw an abundance of video footage and movies reaching the home front, making the propaganda machine run at full speed. These formed the cleavages of the that time, and it’s precisely in this context that we must situate the interview with Ira Schneider in order to understand it.

Ira Schneider (1939) is one of the co-founders of the ‘Raindance Foundation’ and ‘Radical Software’, a magazine that originated in New York in 1970 and experimented with the use of video and imagery as a medium. During the interview he talks about the formation and coming together of the collective, how he was personally involved and what they tried to achieve with their work. This is why the foregoing context is so important, as the artists argued that the development and increasing availability of (back then) revolutionary new video devices could play an important role in accelerating the social change they desired. Thus, it wasn’t the hardware, but the software that needed to be radically renewed. They were convinced that Radical Software could provide a platform for exploring alternatives to the omnipresent and dominant mass media structure. Technology should not be seen as an enemy; on the contrary, it is a means that can be used to arm oneself for a revolutionary battle.

For those familiar with their work, it remains fascinating to listen to Schneider and be inspired by his ideas. For those who discover Radical Software for the first time, words can hardly describe how progressive this collective was and what impact they had, not to mention the relevance of their insights to today's world. The exhibition 'Radical Software: The Raindance Foundation, Media Ecology & Video Art' was on display at West in 2018, with works by Frank Gillette, Beryl Korot, Ira Schneider, Michael Shamberg and the honorary members Davidson Gigliotti and Paul Ryan, among others.