Friday, June 18, 2021 at 7pm

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Sarah Schulman

Target City Hall, DIVA TV, video, 1989, 28 mins
Pride, DIVA TV, video, 1989, 28 mins
Like a Prayer, DIVA TV, video, 1991, 28 mins

To mark the recent publication of her essential chronicle Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, Sarah Schulman will introduce a selection of tapes by DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activist Television). Formed in 1989 as an affinity group of ACT UP, DIVA TV’s initial members included Gregg Bordowitz, Robert Buck, Jean Carlomusto, Catherine Gund, Rob Kurilla, Ray Navarro, Costa Pappas, George Plaggianos, Ellen Spiro, and Jocelyn Taylor. “DIVA TV’s goal at the time it was founded was not festivals and certainly not TV broadcast,” Schulman explains. “It was really for members of ACT UP to see a different perspective than they would have seen that night on television. It was to help us articulate and develop our perspectives by watching an extended interview, instead of just a sound bite. They would compile video tapes and sell them for ten dollars apiece. They mailed a lot of VHS copies to states and cities and towns around the country.”

Indeed, Gund likened the project to an ACT UP newsreel, and as such their work belongs to a rich but often neglected history: collaboratively produced media that has emerged within and alongside grassroots political movements, from the Workers Film and Photo League of the 1930s, to the sprawling Newsreel network of the 1960s and 70s, to the Miners’ Campaign Tapes of Thatcher-era Britain. Like those earlier efforts, DIVA TV’s productions were not made for posterity, but rather served urgent and immediate functions, like safer sex education and police counter-surveillance. Still, watching them now, at a time when the histories of queer activism and the AIDS epidemic have become the subjects of glossy streaming series, we encounter a bracing relevancy in these do-it-ourselves, street-level dispatches. Theirs is an example to remember as we conceive of new strategic images to confront the crises of the present.

Sarah Schulman is the author of more than twenty works of fiction, nonfiction, and theater, and the producer and screenwriter of several feature films. She is a Distinguished Professor at the College of Staten Island, a co-founder of MIX NYC’s New York Queer Experimental Film Festival, and the co-director of the ACT UP Oral History Project.

Copies of Let the Record Show will be available at the event.

Tickets - Pay-what-you-wish, available at door, cash and cards accepted.