VIVO Media Arts Centre Archive > Portable Video Lens

From the Archive of Paul Wong

Art, Culture & Politics Through the Portable Video Lens (1973-1993)

A collaborative project of the Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive and Paul Wong.

“I started [at Video Inn] from the very beginning, in 1973…We were an idealist collective of do-ers. We were anti-commercial television, we were anti-corporations, we were anti-establishment, we were anti-CBC, anti-NFB. It was a “F U” to the art world as well…. I mean, here was the first accessible portable video system that was freed from all that filmmaking bullshit and television ‘standards’ and conventional documentary practices…They treated us as outsiders, gave us no respect… left us on the outside allowing for certainly me to work completely beyond those limitations.

And of course who’s getting the last laugh? They would have never dreamt that forty years later, that all this is kind of possible –  that people can do whatever they want to do: post things on YouTube, Vimeo, have websites, do things on their smart phones, and we are now televising the revolution. We don’t need them to do it for us anymore.”

–  Paul Wong interview, VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2013.
– Video: The Video Inn Library at Vancouver Public Library Main Branch,
Burrard and Robson. July 23-Aug 8, 1973.

About the exhibit

Paul Wong is an early adopter of portable video technology, picking up a 1/2″ open reel Sony Portapak for the first time around 1971 at the age of 17 and co-founding the Satellite Video Exchange Society (Video Inn, Video In Studios, VIVO Media Arts Centre) in 1973. This exhibit features Wong’s experiments outside his work at SVES and reflects his passion for portable video’s disruptive potential. 

As independent artist, videographer, director, and collaborator he worked with the Portapak through the 1970s and the much smaller and lighter 8mm cassette recorders of the late 1980s. These are the formats included in this selection of Wong’s early documentary and art practice. Most of this work was shot in Vancouver on Unceded Coast Salish territories. Many are previously unreleased, unedited recordings.

Wong documents the cultural and artistic trends of this place. This selection includes early activities of now well-recognized artists and acknowledges the influence of American and international artists on the emerging art scene here in the 60s and 70s. Also represented are Wong’s creative interactions with friends and colleagues, as well as his signature explorations of his heritage through insightful and intimate portraits of his family.

Iterations of these themes and methods are evident in Wong’s recent works, and, despite ever increasing content restrictions on corporate platforms that originally held some potential for experimental or radical content, Wong continues to embrace portability, stealth, and broad distribution through the extraordinary capabilities of smartphone technology. 

VIVO would like to thank and acknowledge the Irving K. Barber Centre for their support of this project through their B.C. History Digitization Program.