EN GRÈVE!: 1970s French Activisms on Screen

This page supplements information presented as part of En Grève!: 1970s French Activisms on Screen presented by Unit/Pitt Society for Art & Critical Awareness and VIVO Media Arts Centre on May 20, 2021. The event featured a discussion with Donald Reid, Nathan Crompton, and our Archive Manager, Karen Knights, moderated by Roxanne Panchasi.

For those interested in 1970s video practice in France, we’ve included here the subtitled video clips shown at En Grève!, as well as the full french-language videos, context on the videos’ relationship to VIVO, and additional resources available at the Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive.

LIP en grève [excerpt]

Militant French Video at the Video Inn Library

From 1971, Vancouver artist Michael Goldberg initiated a series of projects aimed at expanding international video exchange including a series of directories, and Matrix, the first international gathering of video producers. His french language skills helped him connect with French artists and writers including Guy Hennebelle, Etienne Pereny, Carole & Paul Roussopoulos (Video Out), and Yvonne Mignot and Michel Lefebvre (Video 00).

When Michael co-founded the Satellite Video Exchange Society in 1973 and the Video Inn Library was opened, the initial library was created through the deposit of 79 videos that had been brought to Matrix. These included 4 French and 1 Swiss video donated in exchange for a plane ticket from Montreal to Vancouver for Jacques Kuhler, representing the Paris video group, Video Poing. 

Video Poing was a signatory to a demonstration of support for Video Info, a Paris bulletin first published in 1972, which featured  the militant video movement. In January 1973, Video Info published a submission by Michael on video exchange and Matrix. He offered to convert SECAM videos to NTSC at no charge for non-profits and independents if they agreed to contribute a copy to the library (dependent on there being no copyright restrictions). Based on the Library Agreement Form for the Les cents fleurs videos, which recorded them as loans, it’s likely they were submitted to take advantage of this conversion service.

Program Excerpts with English Subtitles

LIP en grève

Cerizay: Elles ont osé

Ceux de Pédernec

Full Videos

LIP en grève [Lip Strike]

Artist: Alain and Annick Magron; Dominique Schiavi
Year: June-July-August 1973
Duration: 33:00
Country: France
Language: French

Catalogue description

French assembly line workers go on strike. After meeting and discussing their demands, the company is restructured as a worker’s cooperative. It then works for people, not profits.

Accession #: 0183

Cerizay: Elles ont osé [Cerizay: they dared]

Artist: Les Cents Fleurs (Danielle Jaeggi, Jean-Paul Fargier, Annie Caro)
Year: 1973
Duration: 41:21
Country: France
Language: French

Catalogue description

In France, textile workers demonstrate and discuss their grievances.

Accession #0291a

Ceux de Pédernec [Those of Pédernec]

Artist: Les Cents Fleurs (Danielle Jaeggi & Jean-Paul Fargier)
Year: 1974
Duration: 33:00
Country: France
Language: French

Catalogue description

French workers describe themselves as chickens looked after by gentle butchers.

Accession #: 0292b

Video Inn Producer Index Cards

Video Inn Library Agreement Forms for Videotapes

Notes on video quality

All videos deposited in the Video Inn Library are 2nd or 3rd generation dubs.

Video format standards

Impeding exchange of international and Canadian video in the early 70s were the differences in format standards. NTSC standard in North America used 525 interlaced lines displayed at a rate of 29.97 frames per second. In Europe, PAL dominated using 625 interlaced lines displayed at a rate of 25 frames per second. France alone used their own standard, SECAM. It had the same line and frame rates as PAL, but processed colour differently.

This incompatibility was an ongoing topic in video circles at the time. Paul Ryan, of the prominant independent video publication, Raindance, New York, made the argument that a universal standard must be instituted – by which he meant the North American NTSC. The response by Europe producers was, understandably, negative.

Conversion process at Video Inn Library

In 1972, before the formation of Video Inn, Michael Goldberg convinced Sony to donate a CV 2100 ACE European standard (PAL) deck to him to help facilitate international exchange. As the only difference between SECAM and PAL was in colour processing, and as the Portapak only recorded grayscale, it was suitable for conversion of SECAM tapes to NTSC through an optical transfer process.

The 220v deck was powered using a gasoline fueled, 50 hertz, generator (also donated by Sony). The generator was set up in the rear alley entrance to Video Inn’s Powell Street location to minimize fumes in the space. A SECAM video would be played on the PAL deck and a portapak camera on a tripod would record the image off a monitor to an NTSC videotape.

These layers of interference and degradation between the master video signal and the copies represented here are the reason for their low quality. Most notable is a flickering of the image, a telltale sign of an optical transfer.

Value to Video Inn and Community

Due to the technical degradations of these primitive conversion practices, viewing these videos today can be challenging for audiences. What should be remembered that without these processes, there would have been no free, on demand access to these images here. The value to Video Inn was that they provided first-hand, visceral, information on what was happening in this revolutionary workers movement in France. They educated producers on video technique and suggested strategies for meaningful engagement with their subjects using the same technology our producers could access here. At the core of video exchange was information exchange, and despite the technical weaknesses, these videos were successful in informing, educating, and inspiring videomakers locally.

CDMLA Resources for 1970s French Video

VIVO Media Arts Centre was incorporated as an educational non-profit (Satellite Video Exchange Society) in 1973 and operated as Video Inn – a public video library. Original materials related to video production in France include correspondence and information gathered through the Video Exchange Directory (1971-1978) with individuals and institutions, the Matrix Video Festival and Conference (1973), and our videotape exchange program and other tape deposits (1973+). Other materials include French publications, distribution and festival catalogues, and exhibition documentation. These materials are accessible through VIVO’s Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive. To view videos or other materials, contact the Archivist: library@vivomediaarts.com

International Video Exchange Directory
In 1971, Michael Goldberg, an artist with the Intermedia collective, and under the aegis of Image Bank, mailed 1000 postcards worldwide calling for groups and individuals working with small-format video to form an international network. People were asked to respond with their contact information, equipment, and experience. The resulting data was published in the “Video Exchange Directory Bottin Video International”, the first of eight such directories published between 1971 and 1981. A selection of original submissions and correspondence are also available.
Michael Goldberg is co-founder of the Satellite Video Exchange Society and its primary connection with French producers.
Link here for more information about the Video Exchange Directories.
Original Image Bank postcard. 1971.
Cover. Video Exchange Directory Bottin Video International. 1971.
Introduction. Michael Goldberg. November 1971.
Exchange Directory submission. Dominique Barbier, France. c1973.


Matrix was a conference and festival held in Vancouver in January 1973. It was organized by Patricia Hardman, Michael Goldberg, and Noelle Peltier (Vancouver Art Gallery).

Matrix was attended by 160 representatives, many connected through the video exchange network. Delegates came from Europe, Japan, the United States, and Canada. Each were asked to bring a videotape as admission to the conference, which many were able to do. The Video Inn Library was the most significant outcome from Matrix for Vancouver.
Aside from the Video Exchange Directories, the Matrix-related correspondence before and after the conference best illuminate the relationships and exchange channels between the Paris and Vancouver video communities.
Letter from Paul Roussopoulos to Michael Goldberg, September 2, 1972, about his intention to attend Matrix. 
Roussopoulos, unfortunately, did not attend.
Letter from Jacques Kuchler, Video Poing, to Michael Goldberg, December 15, 1972, about his difficulty securing funding for the trip to Matrix. He requests assistance for the Montreal-Vancouver leg in exchange for the contribution of 5 videotapes with French and Swiss content. The videos by Video Poing and Atelier become part of the original deposit from Matrix to the Video Inn Library.
Letter from Guy Hennebelle to Michael Goldberg, May 18, 1972. It recounts him receiving the Video Exchange Directory, his publicizing Matrix in Ecran 73, his interest in hearing from Goldberg about video for possible inclusion in Screen 7, and that Carole Roussopoulos (Video Out) intended to send him a report on the conference.
Guy Hennebelle was a noted French film historian and journalist, and a specialist in militant and third world cinemas.
A card from the Porta Pak, an unnumbered deck of 27 cards designed by Paula Wainberg, sent to Matrix attendees post-conference. It features a list of names and mailing addresses for relevant publications, including: Vidéo Information #1 (Vidéo Collectif), Video Magazine, Federal Dept. of Communications Library, and Misgivings (Memo From Turner).

Index Cards

Index cards were Video Inn’s internal tracking system for current producer contact information and key outreach information. These are few more examples of related groups working out of France in the 1970s.
To view contact the Archivist: library@vivomediaarts.com
Index card and catalogue station at Video Inn. c1977.
Index Card. Video Poing, Paris, France.
Index card. Video Out & Mon Oeil, Paul and Carole Roussopoulos, Paris, France.
Index Card. Video 00, Michel and Yvonne LeFebvre, Paris, France.

Vidéo Info, le journal de la vidéo

Vidéo Info was published by Collectif Video, Paris, France. No copyright.
As with most video journals of this era, it included technology how-to articles, profiles of independent producers and collectives, and articles.
The view contact the Archivist: library@vivomediaarts.com
Cover: Video Info No.1 November 1972. France.
Cover: Video Info. No.2 January 1973.
Cover. Video Info No.6. May/June 1974.
Ad: Video Info 1974.

Original Materials

The CDMLA holds a small quantity of original publications by Paris organizations and video makers, and their correspondence with Video Inn.
Catalogue: Collectif de diffusion video diapos…
1 partie: 1970-1974
2 partie: 1975-1977
Publisher: Mon Oeil. Paris, France. c.1978
Production catalogue.
Communes: les temps de l’autogestion.
Publisher: Video 00. Paris, France. c.1970s
Letter from Yvonne and Michel LeFebvre, Video 00, to Michael Goldberg, Video Inn.
Written between 15 December 1982 and 11 April 1983, the dates of Nam June Paik’s Tricolour Video exhibition at the Beaubourg Museum (now Centre Pompideau) detailing how “Paris and all of France seems to moving abruptly in a videosphere”.

European Tour Documentation

In 1977, Video Inn collective members Shawn Preus and Andy Harvey visited video centres and producers in Europe. Documentation includes correspondence and their three part report in Video Guide magazine.
Form letter: 1977 Shawn Preus and Andy Harvey European Tour.
Video Guide Vol.1 No.3 (1978)
Full issue. France report page 8 & 9.

Exhibition Documentation

Exhibition posters, flyers, catalogues, reviews, and venue history. These examples are flyers from Video Legere, Paris, France. These can be found in our international network files.
Confrontation des programmes et des équipes de Video Legere, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1974. Flyer [front]
Confrontation des programmes et des équipes de Video Legere, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1974. Flyer [back]
10 ans d’histoire contemporaine de / par Video Legere, Studio, Maison de la Culture d’Orleans, Orleans, France, 1982. Flyer [front]
Petit musée de la Vidéo Léger, Maison de la Culture d’Orleans, Orleans, France, 1982. Flyer [back]