VIVO Media Arts Centre Archive > Portable Video Lens Open Reel

1/2″ Open Reel 1

Paul Wong Projects

Personal video, video art, artistic collaborations (1973-1978)

Paul Wong’s delivery of his 1/2″ collection to VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2021.
Photo: Clark Henderson

Wong began working with the Portapak through the Intermedia Society, a collaborative association of multidisciplinary artists. Those who incorporated video into their practice included Taki Bluesinger, Crista Dahl, Don Druik, Maxine Gadd, Gerry Gilbert, Michael Goldberg, Helen Goodwin, Carole Itter, Roy Kiyooka, Glenn Lewis, Kitty Hawk, Eric Metcalfe, Tom Paskal, Evelyn Roth, David Rimmer, Dallas Selman, Marsha Stone, and Vincent Trasov, among others. Wong would collaborate with many of them in the following years. By the time Wong was producing the videos on this page, he had co-founded the Satellite Video Exchange Society, giving him generous access to the technology, and was producing The Mainstreeters tapes (with Kenneth Fletcher, Deborah Fong, Carol Hackett, Marlene MacGregor, Annastacia McDonald, Charles Rea, Jeanette Reinhardt).

1/2″ Open Reel 1 features Wong’s  early video art, artistic collaborations, and personal experiments with the format.

Go to 1/2″ Open Reel 2  featuring videos produced during Wong’s collaboration with Helen Goodwin and The Performance Warehouse.

Dragon dance
Chinatown  February 1973  26:46 min
Wong moves amongst the dancers and crowds Chinese New Year in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown Gui Chou Year (Ox) documenting the traditional Dragon Dance.
Chinese Mariners on Strike
January 21, 1973  33:40 min.
Language: Cantonese
On January 18, 1973, six plain-clothes RCMP boarded the Somali-registered freighter, Ceram Sea, and forcefully searched the ship, confiscating and in some cases deliberately destroying (according to the seamen and longshoremen who witnessed their actions) the seamen’s personal property. For five days the crew went on a strike against the brutality they suffered at the hands of the RCMP and to demand that the ship’s owners finance a legal claim against the Force. The seaman found legal representation with B.C.’s first Chinese-Canadian lawyer, Andy Joe.* Wong, then working at Video Inn on Powell Street just a couple of blocks from the port,  grabbed a Portapak and headed to the scene when he heard about the action on the 21st. The result is this video documentation of the intense meetings happening on board the ship. The final 2-page report on the incident released by Solicitor-General Warren Allmand clearing the RCMP of wrong doing was declared a complete “whitewash” by the Joe.
* Andy Joe became a lawyer after a 1947 law gave the right to vote to Chinese immigrants who, because they were not on the Voters List, had previously been banned from the profession.
Mrs. Wong Mahjong House Warming
1974  19:16 min
Wong turns his camera on his family as they celebrate a new home for Mrs. Wong.
Wedding 1 of 3
Wong records a wedding on 1/2″ open reel for a family member.  In this first of three videos, the action is centered around the family preparing to depart for the church, the bride and groom’s arrival , the wedding ceremony, and  the casual gathering of family and friends on the street afterwards. The ceremony took place at the, then-named, St. Francis Xavier Church at 431 Princess Avenue at East Pender Street in Strathcona on the edge of Chinatown proper. This buildng has served waves of immigrants and has been a Sweden Evangelical Church, a Lutheran Church, a St. Stephen’s Greek Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Ukranian Church.
Brockton Oval  July 13, 1974  14:26 min.
The Royal Canadian Aerial Theatre (RCAT) was founded in Vancouver in 1972 by Joyce Ozier, Frank Masi, and Robert Cook, innovators of participatory outdoor sculpture, utilizing the technically and financially accessible tools of kites and balloons. Most performances were lighthearted and aesthetically motivated. Others, were aimed at highlighting urgent social issues (in particular, environmentalism – at a time before we had an understanding of the environmental damage caused by balloons.) Wong recorded one of their early events featuring red balloons at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park.
Additional materials: A handwritten note from, Joyce, found nestled in the video case, describes the vagaries of public performance and this one in particular and a review by John Lazurus.
Newspaper article entitled "Aerial Theatre Was Fun" describing the release of hundreds of red,tethered balloons by the Royal Canadian Aerial Theatre at Brockton Oval, Vancouver, on July 13, 1973.
Sculpture in Movement
1974  28:00
A collaboration of Evelyn Roth Moving Sculpture Company, Evelyn Roth (sculptures and choreography) and Paul Wong (videographer). Performers: Gerry Franklin, bernice Hirschorn, Lisa Mabee, Barbaree Nyberg, Judith Schwarz, Robert Wakefield. In this performance, the dancers were encased in jersey fabric. Evelyn Roth’s early work includes many collaborations with, and nods to, video art, including her crochetted video tape fashions.
Earthworks In Harmony Installation at Videobag
Burnaby Art Gallery  October 1974  33:07 min.
Documentation of Wong’s Earthworks In Harmony multi-channel video installation at the Burnaby Art Gallery. The installation was a part of the gallery’s ambitious Videobag exhibition. While some of the videos shown at Videobag still exist, this is rare documentation of video art in situ. The original collection of video recordings held by the Burnaby Art Gallery was lost to mould in the early 2010s.
Additional materials: Videobag materials from the SVES fonds.
The first video image of a Felix the Cat doll in black & white with pronounced video scan lines.
On Becoming a Man
Vancouver  1975 19:54 min.
single channel video, b/w, mono sound
“On the occasion of his 21st birthday, Paul Wong walks southwest from his mother’s house at St. Catherines St. to the Quebec St. home of Kenneth Fletcher. Most remarkable about this video is not its careful camera work (shot entirely from a moving vehicle), but the driving that allowed for it – a feat that brings to mind the complementary (and collaborative) relationship between the shooter and the driver.” [Description from Paul Wong]
Anna Banana #2
c1976  24:10min
Documentation of an early participatory art event by Victoria-born artist, Anna Banana. Anna wears her paper “Rainbow Kids” crown and engages a playground of irrepresable children with her fool persona, dress-up, and a box of bananas. Anna draws on west coast interests of Fluxus and Dadaism, and traditions of mail art and performance art, to build communities of creativity and sharing.
3 Video Dance Poems
1976  27:43 min
Paula Ross Dancers
Choreography: Paula Ross
Video Direction and camera: Paul Wong
Additional Camera: Kenneth Fletcher
Commissioned by the Paula Ross Dance Society. Three modern dance pieces restructured for three video styles: “Solitaire” (dancer Anna Previte), “Sarah Vaughn” (dancers Anna Previte, Belva Wade), and “Coming Together” (dancers Leslie Manning, Anna Previte, Paul Tahoe, Belva Wade, Kay Leong, Anne Harvie, Paul Demaire, Charles Gulizia). Paula Ross regular worked with video artists including Paul Wong and Matthew Speier.
On Location – Vancouver (Compilation)
1976-1978  28:29mins
This compilation tape includes a full version of Gutter (see Performance Warehouse tapes) and an excerpt from his installation, Amass. The first excerpt of Amass footage is of Wong stacking large rocks. The second features dancer/choreographer Valerie Hammer against the backdrop of the Vancouver cityscape (1977). The Amass excerpt starts at 8:23.
Kenneth Fletcher House
1978  28:30 min.
Wong documents the home of his collaborative and personal partner, Kenneth Fletcher (1954-1978), following his suicide.